Family Mealtime and Child Obesity

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God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.

David Ludwig, MD
There are few activities that are as important to a child's heath and nutrition as a family meal for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it provides parents at least 1 opportunity a day to control the nutritional quality of their children's diets in a world that unfortunately as we know, tends not to support that. But it also provides an opportunity to model healthful eating. We can show our children what it's like to not just eat and appreciate good food, but how to pay attention to when we are full and then stop eating. Ideally we want to start in early childhood with clear limits. That's the age when children do respond very well. They need clear limits. We are one of the few cultures anywhere in the world that would let a 3 year old or a 5 year old determine what's she's going to eat for dinner, you know. If a parent goes to the trouble of serving a well rounded dinner with a salad and a cooked vegetable, a whole grain, and a healthy protein and the kid says I don't want to eat it, and has a tantrum, then the parent runs up and makes macaroni and cheese from the package, you know. So I think that parents need to reclaim control and set very clear limits for young children, which can prevent a lot of problems from developing in adolescence.