I hope you enjoy Starting from Scratch, my second book, published each week online, one chapter at a time. Before the book’s final publication, I hope to sprinkle readers’ thoughts, opinions and advice throughout. After all, you each have helpful systems and solutions in the kitchen worth sharing. By making a contribution, your comments will be printed, crediting you and/or your blog, and you’ll get free copies of the book. In addition, for each section, I’m consulting an expert – for this excerpt, it’s Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, writer and editor for Simple Bites.

set the table

A late comer to marriage, I spent many years cooking for no one other than yours truly (and my dog, Shelby, who rarely got any leftovers). I could eat a vegetarian meal or treat myself to a fresh piece of fish if the mood struck me and the budget allowed. I catered to my tastes only, and no one cared if I forgot an important ingredient or overcooked the meal. This culinary ritual deserves celebration! After all, you are worth the indulgence.

If you have a family, meals can be a meaningful time for everyone to enjoy with one another. Though it is challenging to pull together a balanced and delicious meal after you’ve worked all day, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Aimee recommends creating a healthy food culture for your family, one that includes meal-time and beyond. This culture can have lasting effects, as she eloquently describes, “The strong food culture that my siblings and I were immersed in as children still effects us today. Nearly thirty years later, all four of us are following in the footsteps of our parents in some way or another, even though we live in a modern world and our lifestyles are very different.”

Despite the potential hiccups, eating at least one meal a day with your family has a number of benefits. Here are a few tips to make the experience more enjoyable (and peaceful, if such as thing is possible).

1. Eat as early as possible. If you give food more time to digest, there’s a good chance you’ll sleep better that evening.  The only way you can do this (unless you’re a real night owl) is to eat earlier in the evening. Not to mention, your children will avoid unnecessary melt-downs by eating before they get too hungry.

2. Avoid unhealthy snacks before dinner is served. It’s not just kids who want to snack before dinner; it’s adults, too! In those moments just before dinner, it’s always tempting to grab something low on nutrients and high on satisfaction. Try to keep snacking to a minimum and cut the Tostitos from the routine altogether!

3. Don’t feed the kids first. Some parents may prefer to do this so they can actually eat a meal in peace. But the other points in my list of nine may dissuade you at least a few nights a week.

4. Make one meal only. My experience has shown that children are more likely to eat more adventurously if they see Mom and Dad eating the same thing. No special macaroni and cheese feasts or dinosaur nugget extravaganzas for the little ones, while the parents have “real” food. If you treat your kids to a high carb alternative, they may not get the balanced meal they deserve (and need!). If children eat a wider array of proteins, veggies and (healthy) fats, they’ll feel better, too.

5. Speak! This command works for people as well as dogs. Eating together stimulates conversation and interest in others. Though I also realize there are special occasions when we’ll sit in front of the TV, a family conversation is as often as healthy as a balanced meal.

6. Slow down. After all, what’s the hurry? Though we do joke in our household about who can finish their veggies first, this tactic is used for healthy eating inspiration only. Not only can slowing down help us savor the flavors of the foods we are eating, but we might also get full sooner and eat less.

7. Keep it fun. As Aimee suggests, “Eating together doesn’t have to be static and predictable. Round out the corners of your home food culture by showing that food can be an adventure, an experience, a journey or a collaboration. Campfires, fondue, dinner baked in foil, picnics, family pizza night, and sweet summer corn on the cob are just but a few ways to ignore the silverware and enjoy food from a different angle.”

8. Thank the chef. Whether you are cooking or someone else is, a little appreciation goes a long way. Not to mention, it’s a nice ego boost when others are applauding your new cooking skills!

9. Pray. I agree with Aimee in that meal-time is also an ideal time to say grace. “Saying grace and giving thanks to God is an integral part of our food culture. Around our table we bless the food and the one who prepared it, express thankfulness for the bounty of it and His provision for it, and show appreciation for the Creator who nurtured the seeds.

Even if you don’t pray in your home, take time to acknowledging that you have food when so many do not, and you will teach your children gratefulness in a day when so much is taken for granted.”

Whether you are spending it with friends, family or yours truly, meals should be savored. Cheers!

Photo courtesy of Aimée.

About Aimée Wimbush-Bourque

Aimée Wimbush-Bourque is the editor and writer for SimpleBites.net, a family-oriented community dedicated to all things food and drink. She believes in the importance of bringing the whole family together around the table on a daily basis, sharing her experiences of cooking for a close-knit family of four.

After attending culinary school, Aimée spent nearly 10 years in the professional cooking industry in Quebec. She then fell in love with motherhood and wanted to stay at home with her babies, trading her tongs and chef whites for cloth diapers and a laptop, thus marrying her two passions as a food/mommy blogger.

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