Guide Nine: What is a family meal?

Presenter: Simone Emery


Hi, this is Simone Emery, again. I am the co-admin of the parenting picky eaters Facebook group, and also part of Your Feeding Team. The three of us, Jo, Natalia and I, are feeding professionals. We’re here to help you with raising confident, happy eaters. So far, we have dived into a lot of different {topics in our} videos. Today I’m here to present the learning unit on why we (and you will) love family meals. Plus, we’re going to talk a little bit about exposure and modelling. How powerful they can be.

So far you’ve watched our videos on why pressure is counterproductive {in Guide 3, that also touched on} how to structure your mealtime, your meals and snacks. Now, we’re going to really dive into some of the practicalities of how to set up meals. Jo, Natalia, and I recommend you switch over to “family style serve”. Now, one of the main things we talk about is “family meals”. This means your child with at least one other person.  I know that “family” can seem like a really big ask, especially if families work different hours. But, remember – the definition really is just so that your child is not eating alone. That they have at least one role model with them.

So switching to “family style serve” means that we will generally put food out in the middle of the table. And everyoned can start to use their autonomy and feel like they belong at the meal. A family style meal really helps children feel more independent, relaxed and confident at meal times. It promotes the development of eating and social skills.

Many families we’ve worked with found that serving meals as “family style” has really helped. Their children become more adventurous with new foods and everyone enjoys the experience. In this group, we invite you to share your #RealFamilyMeals to inspire your fellow parents, to embrace this family style of serving.

The aim {of family style serve} is to reduce stress, allow your child to build their feeding skills and foster an eating environment that is positive for everyone. It’s not just for your child, but also for you! Imagine not having to say “just try one more bite” and all of those things that make us feel negative in ourselves.

We also support that food is food in this group. So, you might see the #FoodIsFood. This is all about the fact that we’re not here to demonize any foods that some children are eating because they are eating that for a reason. A child happily eating a chicken nugget with their family is better off than a child who is stressed out and upset (or a family that is stressed out and upset) about the chicken nuggets being their only accepted food.

So, really by having that mindset that food is food and focusing on that positive energy, we’re going to be really acknowledging that children are going to be able to learn a lot more in an environment where there is a lot more support for them. We really need to understand your child’s why before we can really help them move on with their dietary repertoire as well. {See Guide Two on Root Causes for Picky Eating – having a relaxed eating environment is key to unlocking they layers beneath what is going on for your child}.

 And I suppose, one of the biggest advantages of serving meals as “family style” is that we’re really emphasizing to the child that they belong here. There’s a real belonging mindset at the mealtime.

This is a quote that I saw from Brenee Brown on a Netflix documentary – she said that the opposite of belonging somewhere is trying to fit-in. If you can imagine, you’re always trying to fit in with your friends. And you’re constantly looking externally for validation that you’re doing things right. There’s this constant stress that I’ve got to “fit in”.  But then imagine flipping that round and just belonging with your friends. Coming as you are. Just being yourself. That’s the sort of thing we’re talking about.

I’d love for you to think about belonging as a real key theme to your meals this week. How much do your children really feel like they belong there with you?

In this group, please share your stories, your wins and your family meal ideas using that hashtag – #FealFamilyMeals.

On our subscription site,, we even show you how we set up our own family meals. We share loads and loads of practical advice to help you implement family meals, because we know it sounds easy, but it can actually be really hard to make that mindset change and the actual daily ins-and-outs of orchestrating the meals.

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