Q&A: Getting the Family to Enjoy One Meal Together


Having kids help in the preparation of dinner is a great way to share with them the stories behind family recipes, the science of cooking and the nutritional goodness of whole foods... and in the end, maybe even be more inclined to enjoy one meal cooked together.

No one in my family eats the same thing come dinner time! Any advice?

  • Anita Morehouse writes, “LOL! We can’t even agree on a time to eat, never mind what to eat!”
  • Michael Muller writes, “Pizza?”
  • Brooksley Williams writes, “If my kids (ages 5 and 3) balk at what I’m serving for dinner, I express my confidence and excitement at how hungry they will be for breakfast. Eventually, they come around.”
  • Heather Richardson writes, “Everything my husband and I eat is offered to the kids…if they don’t eat it, then well they don’t eat! They won’t starve!”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “Same here-and they’re identical twins! There are only a handful of meals that everyone will eat and we still usually have to provide different veggies! We are desperately trying to diversify but so far have only succeeded in creating more choices!”
  • Belchertown Mass writes, “When I make a meal, everyone must eat some of it, no matter how small of a portion. If they’re still hungry after that, they can make themselves something else…like a bowl of cereal.”
  • Mindi Palmer Fried writes, “No advice, but we’ve got the same issue here so I’m taking notes!”
  • Michelle Huddy writes, “When we had this issue a couple of years ago, I would make the meal and then have whole wheat bread and butter on the table. They needed to try what the parents were having, and if they didn’t like it, they could have the bread. I especially liked this because then my husband and I didn’t have to get up for different foods during the meal!”
  • Kate McCarthy Roy writes, “I agree with Brooksley…one meal made, eat it or don’t…your choice!!”
  • Pauline Delton writes, “I have a kid who it turns out had a lot of food sensitivities. Keep in mind that kids also reject foods if the foods bother them, even if they can’t verbalize it. We’ve been serving foods that I know he is clear to eat and has willingly eaten recently, keeping it simple because I know he doesn’t like mixed up meals. There are a few items to eat, and that’s it. But, if he’s not hungry at dinnertime, he can have leftovers before brushing his teeth. Not everyone is hungry at the same time…”
  • Amy Meltzer writes, “I insist they try everything, but don’t insist they eat something they don’t like. I don’t want to eat things I don’t like. I usually have a backup for the picky eater (whole wheat bagel or tortilla along with a fruit or vegetable).”
  • Jennifer Friedman writes, “We have a rule …. what is on the table is what is for dinner. If you don’t like it, you’ll be super hungry for breakfast! Nobody is forced to eat anything, and I try to always serve some of what I know people will eat, but the rule cuts down on the fussing. It only takes one night of not eating dinner to come around to eating what is served!”
  • Annie Bob DeCoteau writes, “We do the same as Jennifer and now my kids will eat just about anything. We do have the “try it once” rule and they are pretty willing to at least try something.”
  • Arianna Alexsandra Grindrod writes, “I know I am an excellent cook as I receive that feedback from my husband and friends so I really appreciate that I am not the only one saying – this is what is for dinner, take it or leave it.”
  • Julie Jones writes, “We ate in our ski gear last spring-boots, skis, goggles, etc.”
  • Jennifer Leveille LaValley writes, “We make our Sunday dinner a sit down family meal- we all help cook and we all help clean up ….it’s something we look forward to since our hectic schedules do not allow us to all eat together any other day.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Mish Mish]

4 Comments on “Q&A: Getting the Family to Enjoy One Meal Together

  1. This is definitely a challenge in my vegetarian house because 2 of the 4 of us have severe food issues (peanuts/treenuts/dairy/gluten). The food put on the table is “safe” food. Then everyone is expected to try everything. We have what we call a “no thank you bite,” which means you can say “no thank you” AFTER you’ve tried it. Also, when I have the patience to share the kitchen with the kids, they are more likely to eat what they cook themselves.

  2. My kids are now 12 and 15 but I have adhered to the repeat introducing foods 10 x. My son said he didn’t like salad but I kept reintroducing saying just try a little… and then he found he liked it, especially crunchy salad. The other thing I did when they were young was to serve the greens first, then the rest of the meal. That way they would eat it! My pediatrician was great- he said his kids eat what the parents eat and that’s that. Otherwise they are hungry. The kids that get pandered to end up eating “kid food” which even from the health food stores is generally processed.

  3. My 12 and 14 year old boys have gotten good at trying new things and I’ve gotten good at knowing their, and my husband’s, favorite dishes. That said, many nights at least one doesn’t care for the meal. I can usually foresee this, knowing their favorites, and try to make at least one side dish: rice, noodle or something cheesy, that I know the odd person out really likes. Bread, biscuits and rolls are a unanimous favorite, so I plan ahead. Everyone is respectful and eats at least some of the meal. Also, having a teen and pre teen has taught me to lighten up. Skimping on dinner and having a snack later never killed anyone.

  4. Dinner is at 6 or as close to 6 as we can get and our 7 year old is expected to sit at the table, tell us about his day, listen to us talk to each other, try a little of everything, and attempt to have table manners! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t :-) We don’t put a lot of pressure on finishing everything and I am willing–once in a while–to make a PBJ sandwich if he has tried everything. We’ve found that the conversation distracts him and before he realizes, he may finish something he claimed not to like. In most of the rest of the world, children are not allowed to walk away from dinner table, so we do ask him to say, “Con permiso,” before getting up and to wait for a reply. On the other hand, we’re softies compared to our parents who did not allow us to have an alternative food nor to leave the table until EVERYONE was done talking. I now appreciate this home training when I go out to business or networking events with self-conscious adults who find it difficult to balance table manners and conversation.

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