Happy mealtime, healthy kids

Author: Ivanhoe Newswire
Photo via Ivanhoe Newswire

Dinner time is a stressful time of day for many families – with parents coming home from work, kids coming home from school, and everybody is really hungry and ready to eat. New research suggests a positive attitude during mealtime could influence kids’ food choices, having an impact on health down the road.

For Lisa and Chris Lucht, the kitchen table is the place where this family refuels and reconnects.

“It’s important to get us all together so that we have time to talk,” Lisa said. “The kids know we are focusing on them. They have our full attention. We have their full attention.”

“I like talking about different things and I like eating the vegetables at dinner,” the Luchts’ daughter said.

But a smooth transition from day to dinnertime isn’t always easy.

“Coming home from work, and getting us all to the table, it’s busy,” Lisa said.

New research suggests if parents can create a positive environment at mealtime, children reap the health benefits.

“These findings are saying that emotions matter. Mealtimes matter,” said Jaclyn Saltzman, a graduate assistant with the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center.

Saltzman and her colleagues studied the habits of 75 families with three year olds. For 23 months they videotaped mealtime visits and also used surveys to assess positive and negative emotions and interactions.

“Families that had a more positive mealtime emotional climate also had children who ate about one more serving of healthy food,” Saltzman said.

Saltzman said parents can create a positive environment by involving kids in mealtime setup or preparation. That extra serving of healthy food meant kids were eating more lean or soy protein, fruits and vegetables over an extended period of time.

“Their kids eat more healthy foods, (and) the kids have healthier weight statuses,” Saltzman said.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.
Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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