Have you heard of ‘family style’ meals? Do you know how they might reduce mealtime stress and improve your child’s eating?
Serving your family meals ‘family style’ or ‘buffet style’ simply means putting your food into bowls or serving dishes and placing it on the table so your family can help themselves.
It allows you, the parent to take charge of When and What food is served and allows your child to be in control over Whether and How Much they eat of this food. This ‘Division of Responsibility’ makes for competent eaters and more enjoyable family meals.
This wasn’t how meals were served in my home growing up but is something that I started with my own family a few years ago, having realised the many benefits.
What are the benefits for you and your family?
It’s easier and saves time! If like me you don’t have much counter space and many children, it’s much simpler to put the food on the table rather than trying to find space to dish up each meal.
It reduces moaning. Often mealtime complaints start as soon as your child sees their plate, ‘I hate peas, why did you put them on my plate’, this can get the meal off to a bad start, it’s difficult to come back from. Putting the food on the table for children to choose eliminates this problem.
It offers food exposure without pressure. It allows you to model healthy eating. Fill your plate up with veggies first, then add a protein and a carbohydrate. You can encourage everyone to try a bit of each, but don’t push it. I generally opt for saying nothing and just get on with enjoying my own meal.
‘One Family, One Meal’ rather than separate meals. Make sure to have at least one food on the table that your child will eat. Yesterday we had steak with roast vegetables, my eldest son ‘hates’ this meal so I added bread to the table. He had some bread and some milk, not ideal but he was still part of our family meal. Over the week there will be meals that children don’t like, that’s OK but it’s important to keep them included in family dinners. They can make up the nutrients at another meal or on another day!
It encourages kids to listen to their hunger and fullness cues. Your child controls how much they want to eat at each meal. Remember your child’s appetite fluctuates from meal to meal and day to day. This way they can take a little and can top up with more if they’re still hungry. Just work out how much to cook but looking at the recommended serving sizes of the foods and working it out for the whole family.
It teaches respect and table manners. You can teach your children to be considerate of others in the family. They may take an extra serving of a food only if everyone else has had their fair share
It cuts down on food waste. Ever feel like you’re constantly scrapping uneaten food from plates into the bin? Family Style Service cuts down on this, simply wrap up leftover food for another day.
It helps with co-ordination and motor skills. What child doesn’t like scooping and pouring?! Sometimes novelty alone will encourage your child to put otherwise un-liked foods on their plate. They may still not eat them but voluntarily placing them on the plate is an important step towards acceptance.
What are you waiting for?
You certainly don’t have to serve every meal this way. In our family, I serve the most our meals this way but do whatever works best for you. You won’t know till you try!