Households around the world have had their normal routines turned upside down. Under government direction, and for the sake of our broader communities, most of us have stopped the myriad activities that resulted in us rushing from one place to the next.
The extra time gained from being largely restricted to home as has given many of us a chance to breathe and reflect. And for many the last few weeks have resulted in either discovering or re-discovering the joys of baking and cooking. For some this was forced by the closure of restaurants and cafes, some needed to fill the extra time on their hands, and some needed something to look forward to - a treat at the end of the day.
For me, heading into the kitchen helped bring an element of control back into my world. As I grappled with learning and understanding the technology I suddenly needed to do my job, baking provided me with a sense of calm and certainty (and the added bonus of a treat!).
In this time of physical distancing many families around the world have embraced a return to family mealtimes. Out of stressful times we look for the positives - I think and hope many families will look back on this time of physical distancing and feel more connected. And for those who do, I am confident better quality and quantity of family mealtimes will have been a significant contributor to this increased sense of connectedness.
Research tells us children that participate in regular family meals display the following qualities:
- greater sense of resilience
- higher self-esteem
- improved academic performance
- improved perception of family relationships
- risk of depression decreased
- reduced risk of substance abuse
- lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
- reduced rates of obesity
- greater intake of typically under consumed nutrients
This is a powerful list and if this was sold as a pill we would all be buying them!
And yet most of these benefits are not directly related to nutrition – this is because there are lots of ways fussy eaters can enjoy and be successful at family mealtimes even if they find the actual eating challenging.
The extra time at home forced on us during this pandemic provides more opportunities to dedicate additional time and patience to your fussy eater and also get them involved in preparing meals. They can pick herbs from the garden, help gather the ingredients from around the kitchen, set the table, cut food up or serve food to themselves and other family members. All these experiences provide opportunities for your child to learn about different foods.
This also helps familiarise food and increase your child’s comfort levels – both of which contribute to an increased curiosity and desire to try new flavours, textures and combinations.
As the restrictions ease over the coming weeks I hope some of us will hold on to a few pieces of the slower life we were forced into during this first half of 2020. Let’s embrace a new normal where family mealtimes are embraced, where we continue to offer families a regular place for connection and where our fussy eaters can continue to have positive mealtime experiences.