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quick and healthy toddler dinners

Photo by JayGirlsMom

The future chef!

I'm a huge advocate of the family dinner -- where everyone sits at the table for the evening meal, the TV and radio turned off! This is one of those times where I believe the research: Kids who eat regular family meals at the table are:

-- more likely to eat fruits, vegetables and grains;

-- less likely to snack on unhealthy foods;

-- less likely to use alcohol, marijuana and drugs.

I didn't get the benefit of family meals growing up. My brother and I were very fussy eaters, and whined and complained a lot. My father couldn't stand to listen to us, so almost every night he'd take his tray into the family room and flip on the news. Pretty soon my mom was doing the same thing, so my brother and I followed suit and retreated to the spare room to down our ravioli in front of cartoons.

I never went the drug route, but I sure didn't eat a lot of vegetables, and for the better part of my youth, I was a fierce snacker. It took a long time to break both habits.

So I made a special point of starting the family dinner tradition with my kids as soon as they started on solids. It's not always easy. Sometimes these days, I don't walk in the door until 7 p.m.

But if my husband tries to feed the kids without me, they refuse to settle and focus on eating, and often misbehave. They'll linger over those peas and carrots with their heads in their palms for a half hour or more than it usually takes.

When I'm there and the whole family unit is complete, my kids enjoy their meal a lot more, eat much healthier, and dawdle a lot less.

What is dinnertime like in your house? Do you make a point of eating at the table or does another arrangement work better for you? How do you help your kids eat healthy?