by Heidi Green
March 01, 2012
Let’s blame hectic schedules, shall we? Or let’s not place blame at all. But let’s admit that there is a problem, one that I’ve been calling the dinnertime slump: eating quick foods, on the fly, often separately.
Ben’s and Katie’s school day ends at 4:00 p.m. Their participation in assorted afterschool activities a few evenings each week plus Michael’s long work day and commute means that we may not be ready to sit down to a family dinner until much, much later. Take Mondays, for example. Ben has orchestra at school until 5, Katie has dance from 5:30 to 6:30, and Ben has soccer from 6 to 7:30. If we waited for the ideal family dinner—all of us gathered together at the table—no one would eat until 8 p.m. The children would be completely famished, and by the time dinner was inhaled and the dishes were cleared, it would be time to start the bedtime routine.
Challenged by a tight schedule, we resorted to take-out on Monday nights for the first few weeks. But that “solution” set off my parental nutrition radar. Plus, there’s no one catch-all type of take-out that appeals to all of the children, so it seemed like one or more of them was returning home to cruise the countertop for something to fill them up, usually a snack masquerading as a poorly-planned “second dinner.”
So, I’ve started “boxed dinner Mondays.” I pack each child a kid-friendly dinner dominated by veggies (e.g., baby carrots, strips of peppers, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, broccoli) and fruits (e.g., grapes, bananas, apples) with some other finger foods thrown in (e.g., a wrap, crackers, string cheese, blueberry bread, yogurt tube). In truth, it’s the sort of meal they’d typically find when they opened their lunchbox at school, but in this case we call it dinner.
“It’s a picnic!” Sam declared, during our first boxed-lunch Monday and, really, it almost was. The mild weather let Sam and Katie take their lunch to a picnic table next to the park while we waited for Ben to finish up his musical activity.
I still want to get the “family” back into Monday dinners. But for now I am content with getting the “dinner” back into them.
These mealtime changes I am committed to making aren’t simply due to Monday madness. I’m also working on improving dinnertime overall. I like Dina Rose’s ideas about talking to toddlers with specific messages about “proportion, variety, and moderation.” I think her observations have a lot to offer to parents who want to encourage healthy eating habits in their older children too.
I need to make 2012 the year to improve our eating habits and I could use all the inspiration I can get. So, tell me, what strategies do you use to support healthy eating habits in your children?
Parenting four children between the ages of 47 weeks and 8 years keeps Heidi Green busy! Add in husband Michael, paid work and volunteer work, and life becomes a juggling act. Check in with us every week to find out how she manages (or not), and what she learns in the process.
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