The meal in the center of the table so that your child eats his or her entire plate

04 April, 2019

“My child eats everything.” Is this the ultimate quest during meals? It’s an ideal to achieve, of course, but eating is so complex and involves so many variables that it’s rarely won in advance. And often, a very important factor is forgotten: food is not just about food, it is also the way of eating. Eating behavior is just as important, if not more so. Stop everything you do and read this, it may change your life ... or at least the dynamics during the meal. I want to tell you about the principle of "family style meal" (which is freely translated from English) which is to put all the elements of the meal in the center of the table and let each child serve themselves. For example, if the meal is a shepherd's pie and a salad, both will be in the center of the table, with serving utensils, ready to be served on your child's plate ... or not! Indeed, the child will choose for himself the quantity of each food to put on his plate. He could also choose not to put any at all. It will also have the possibility of being refilled easily. How to do:
  • If your child is 2 years old and under, you can prepare their plate for them. Children between 2 and 3 years old can try to help themselves with help or even point what they want on their plate.
  • Children over 4 years old are able to serve themselves.
  • Make sure you have easy-to-handle serving utensils.
  • Watch out for very hot dishes that come out of the oven, protect the handles or wait until they are less hot before placing them in the center of the table.
  • Be careful not to comment on children's choices. The goal is to simplify the act of eating and make meals enjoyable while respecting everyone's appetite.
Advantages 1) Allows respect for the principle of shared responsibility  of Ellyn Satter. This is clearly the biggest advantage! In summary, you, the parents, are responsible for choosing the foods offered to your children. You are responsible for the “what”, the “where” and the “when”. Supper is at 5.30pm, at the kitchen table, all together and we eat jambalaya. The child is responsible for the "how much". He can eat 2 plates or nothing at all. And we have to respect that. I agree, it is not easy to do. However, these principles are essential for preserving listening to children's appetites. By letting the children serve themselves, they are given full responsibility for what "how much". 2) Expose children to different foods without having to put them on the plate or eat them. Some children have great difficulty accepting novelty. By presenting the food in the center of the table, they get used to their sight, it's already a first step. By regularly offering this food and seeing others taking and eating it, the child is more likely to add it to their plate one day. 3) Facilitates the 2nd service Since all the food is on the table, it is not necessary to get up to reserve. It’s much easier for the parent who can eat more calmly but also to set an example that we have to sit during the meal. 4) Allows you to learn politeness at the table Eating is a biological but also a social act. Good table manners will last a lifetime. The meal in the center of the table allows the child to develop these. "Can I have the broccoli please?" Disadvantage 1) It's messy! While it is messy to handle utensils full of food, it is also a wonderful exercise in motor skills. Having children is messy, period. 2) May give the parent the impression of losing control In my opinion, this is not a disadvantage, it is a lesson for parents! Parents are responsible for the choice and quality of food offered to children. The amount should be the child's choice, according to his appetite. Is it too simple as a solution? In order to improve the family's eating habits, the meal at the center of the table should be considered. Before even tackling the content of meals! What should a full meal contain? You can free download  a meal model based on the new Canadian food guide but suitable for the family.

1 comment

Emilie Durocher

Je trouve le concept intéressant mais j’ai de la difficulté à voir comment ça pourrait s’appliquer chez moi… si je mets le riz, la viande et les légumes sur la table en libre service, je vois déjà mes 2 plus vieux (3 ans et 5 ans) se battre pour savoir qui mettra le plus de riz dans son assiette :(
Il y a vraiment des familles où ça fonctionne?!

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