Family Meals, Family Style

family dinner

After reading the book Love Me, Feed Me by Dr. Katja Rowell, I was convinced that we should start serving our family meals family style.  Up until then, we had been serving our kids the same way most American parents do with pre-plating.  My then four-year-old (who also happened to be very picky) would immediately protest the minute her predetermined meal was placed in front of her.  There was always something on that plate that made the whole thing inedible… and the dinner battle would begin.

At first I was resistant to the idea of serving family style.  Don’t all the diet tipsters say to pre-plate your meal so you wont be tempted to take seconds?  What if she only puts bread on her plate? Or mac-n-cheese?  Or grapes?  What if I don’t want to get an extra serving dish dirty?

But I was desperate, so we tried it.  And it’s changed our family dinners.  Serving family style immediately took most of the battle out of our meals.  It gave some much needed control in food choices to our daughter and helped exposed all of our kiddos to a larger variety of foods.  The best part is, that all three of our kids will often choose on their own to try something by the end of a meal that they resisted at the beginning.  They quickly pass along the bowl of asparagus and then snatch a piece out and nibble on it at the end of the meal.  The bowls on the table, being passed without pressure, give them all time to get used to foods they need.  And it allows them to try them when they are ready.

If you’re ready to try serving family style, here’s a few tips and tricks that we’ve picked up over the last year…

  • Follow the Division of Responsibility or there’s no point in serving family style.
  • Ask your kiddos to pass the dish around politely, even if they choose not to put the food on their plates.  Not only does this teach table manners, but it’s a great exposure to the food.
  • Keep the serving dishes on the table until the end of the meal.  You never know when a kid who is normal picky will choose to try a piece of broccoli or nibble on those enchiladas.
  • Pre-plate a child-size serving of dessert for each kid and let them choose when they want to eat it during the meal.  This is what Dr. Rowell recommends and, as a dietitian, I’m pretty sure family style dessert isn’t the best idea.  You don’t need to serve dessert with every meal, but do give your kids plenty of chances to practice with treats.
  • When possible, serve in your Tupperware.  Yes, serving family style can make for more dishes.  I have this set of Pyrex Storage dishes that I serve in whenever possible so I can just put the lid on and put the leftovers in the fridge.  It saves one round of washing and cleaning.

How does your family serve meals?  What are your best family style serving tips?


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