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What is a healthy dinner?

Dinner is a busy time in any house. We know that after a long day at school and work, preparing a healthy dinner when you are all hungry and tired might be the last thing you feel like doing. But it doesn’t have to take long, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. We have some tips that might just help.

Top tips for a healthy and happy dinner time

  • Become a planner
  • Include 3-4 different types foods
    • Vegetables and/or salad – use different cooking methods for variety in your vegetables, try boiling, steaming and stir-frying. Add extra to sauces, stews, casseroles and curries.
    • Carbohydrate foods like potatoes, pasta, rice or bread
    • Protein foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts
    • Dairy foods – milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Get the kids involved – involve children in choosing what to have for dinner from options you have chosen, it makes them feel like they have control.
  • Don’t offer food rewards as a bribe for finishing a meal. If you need to incentivise your children to eat healthy foods offer non-food rewards such as outdoor activities.
  • Make dinner family time. Use the time to sit down as a family and talk about the day. Children learn their behaviours from the adults in their lives, seeing you taking time for dinner is likely to make them do the same.
  • Turn the TV and other screens off during mealtimes, it is distracting.
  • Fruit and yoghurt make a delicious dessert.

Avoiding dinner disasters...

If your child won’t eat dinner

If your child refuses to eat dinner try getting them involved in choosing and preparing one or two of the items for dinner. Giving the child a choice between items will help them feel in control of what they are eating. Involving children in preparing food, for example getting their help in cleaning vegetables, will make them more motivated to eat the meal after.

If your child doesn’t like vegetables

Some children don’t like to eat certain vegetables and this can be due to their texture and taste. If a child doesn’t eat vegetables then they won’t be used to the taste or texture. Try:

  • Getting them to choose one vegetable at a time and trying it out. If they eat very little the first time don’t force and they may eat some more the next time you serve it.
  • Serving vegetables in different ways – try boiling, steaming, roasting, stir-frying or serving vegetables raw in a salad.
  • What you do, they’ll do – children are more likely to eat vegetables when they see family members eating them too.

If your child is hungry before dinner time

If you find your child is always hungry before dinner it’s okay to offer them a healthy snack. Offer snacks such as vegetable sticks, crackers and cheese, or natural yoghurt and fruit. If the snack is very close to dinner keep it small so they don’t ruin their appetites.

We always have a sweet treat at the end of meals

Some families like to finish dinner by having something sweet. These desserts are usually high in sugar and energy. Save desserts as a treat for special occasions. If your child is still hungry after their dinner, offer yoghurt or fruit.

© The Food Safety Promotion Board