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Mealtime as Family Time

​Eating together as a family is a great way to:

  • Help your child learn healthy eating habits.
  • Model healthy eating for your child.
  • Spend valuable time together as a family.

Read on to find out how regular family meals can make a difference in your child’s life.

The Power of Family

Helping your child lose weight should be a family project. You can’t expect your child to change his or her eating habits alone while others in the family continue to reach for candy and ice cream.

What You Can Do

  • Get your entire family on board and support the weight loss efforts of your child.
  • Be sure everyone in the family models healthy eating behaviors.
  • Avoid making your child feel singled out and isolated. It will make your child resentful and increase the chances of failure.
  • Explain that the entire family, whether the person has a weight problem or not, is going to work at getting healthier.
  • Turn mealtime into family time whenever possible.

Structured Eating

When you have a child trying to lose weight, you need to pay particular attention to mealtimes. They should be firmly structured, not only for your child, but for the entire family.

What You Can Do

  • Have set times for meals. If your child knows that dinner is going to be served at 6:00 pm, he or she will be less likely to start searching for a snack at 5:30 pm. If dinner is served at a different time every night, your child might grab a snack rather than risk having to wait 2 or 3 hours to eat.
  • Offer your family 3 well-balanced meals each day. Avoid skipping meals. If your child skips a meal, he or she will become overly hungry, setting the stage for overeating.
  • Offer your child 1 to 2 healthy snacks per day. Discourage grazing (when your child has access to and grabs food all day long).
  • Prepare meals that are balanced and have portion sizes that are right for your child’s age.
  • Provide at least 1 fruit or vegetable with every meal.
  • Let your child help choose what will be on the menu. Encourage and praise your child for making healthy food choices.

Eating as a Family

In too many homes, families rarely sit down for a meal together. Having regular meals together as a family is an important way for families to grow closer. Family meals give everyone the chance to talk about their day. They are also an opportunity for you to keep an eye on what your child is eating.

What You Can Do

  • Try to have as many meals together as a family as possible.
  • Set a no-TV rule during family meals. The TV is a disruption that you should avoid while you’re eating.
  • Keep meals pleasant and focus on the positives. Celebrate your child’s successes and offer praise for his or her efforts.


Children learn more about good food choices and healthy nutrition when family members join one another for meals. Research also shows that kids eat more vegetables and fruits and less fried foods and sugary drinks when they eat with the entire family.

Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Pediatric Obesity: Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Strategies for Primary Care (Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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