What food we serve our children is not the only thing we consider when we prepare for meals for them. Think about your favorite restaurant. What is it about it that you love? Is it just the food? Not for me. I love the ambiance, the way they display the food, the kindness of the staff, the company, and conversation around the table. So, along with serving healthy food in our house, we pay attention to the following:
- Serving healthy food with joy. What does this mean? For us, it means maximizing the senses! Include fun music, lighthearted conversation, simple, but pleasing display. In general, I prefer to use glass dishes over plastic or paper. I prefer to put things in small dishes rather than leaving them in the original container. We like to talk WITH the children about the day.
- Serving healthy food with a side of gratitude. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5). We start dinner with a prayer that the children lead. It helps set the tone for dinner. It helps us remember where our food is from and that we are blessed to enjoy it around the dinner table, together.
- Making it fancy, fun, relatable, and visually appealing. We serve salad with apples or dried fruit in it. We make faces out of the food for lunch. We change up the flavors, talk about the different cultures where the food comes from. We plant and eat vegetables from our garden. We let the kids help prepare the food. Our five year old regularly prepares a dish for lunch or dinner. Recently, we put her in charge of making the salad. Instead of croutons in the salad, we had crumbled up Teddy Graham’s leftover from a Vacation Bible School snack.
- Teaching table manners. We have basic table manner rules like chew with your mouth closed, saying please and thank you, keep your yucks to yourself, and saying ‘please excuse me from the table’. But, other than that…well, let’s just say you would know that you aren’t eating with Queen Elizabeth if you ate at our house. However, we do want our children to learn more sophisticated manners that are enforced at every dinner. One fun way to do this is to host a fancy dinner. We asked our daughters what they wanted for dinner and they said sushi. So, we ordered sushi in and had our five-year-old pick us out fancy dresses (from our closet) then practiced more elite table manners like no elbows on the table, no slouching, having elevated conversations, and explaining how to cut your food.
- Teaching more than table manners: teaching servitude. Before COVID, we would invite friends, then have our children serve them. We have them ask about their favorite foods prior to dinner so we can incorporate something they enjoy. We have them set the table, bring out the dishes, or get drinks for everyone.
- Cheerfully eat what is served. I do my best to make meals everyone will like, but I know every meal will not be everyone’s favorite. Instead of driving myself crazy trying to make each meal everyone’s favorite, we learn to cheerfully eat what is served.
- Listening skills. We ask a family member to share a story and then we listen. When they are done with the story, we encourage everyone to ask a question about the story. They really enjoy this because it gives them a moment to be heard. This feels especially important for our middle daughter whose voice is often quieter than our oldest.
“Not only are we ministering to their bodies and souls, but we’re also ministering to other people’s bodies and souls through the act of hospitality.”
Each time we feed our family, we are influencing one of the most important relationships of their lives-the one with food. If kids could choose what they could eat, they would choose Goldfish every time, even mine who are exposed to real food. I need to care about the way in which I present food to them because food is always about more than just the food,