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The Better Behavior Show with Dr. Nicole Beurkens

Feb 20, 2019

My guest this week is Leanne Ely, a certified nutritionist passionate about bringing families back to the dinner table and eating meals together. In addition to her syndicated column, ‘The Dinner Diva’ that appears in 250 newspapers nationwide she writes a popular food for thought column on the ever popular In 2001, Leanne created the Menu-Mailer on and has been dubbed the “mother” of menu planning. Leanne’s goal is to bring families closer together by enjoying healthy and easy-to-prepare meals.  

In this episode, Leanne and I discuss the importance of the family dinner table and the incredible effects it has on both parents and children. Leanne provides us with steps on how to approach integrating mealtime back into our family culture and practical tips to make the transition become a new habit. She shares her personal experience and tips on resistant children that struggle with developmental or behavioral disorders and encourages parents to not lose heart. Children and teenagers who connect with their parents during mealtime build better parent-child relationships and have fewer chances of creating habits of substance abuse. Learn more about Leanne here.


Mealtime Matters

  • Creating a habit of eating together at the dinner table has a wealth of positive effects
    • Children feel a sense of belonging and have higher-quality relationships with their parents
    • Studies show that children and teenagers who have frequent dinners with their parents are less likely to engage in substance abuse


Where To Begin

  • Full family effort leads to a higher chance of success
    • As a family, discuss and make a menu plan together
    • This must be a family effort, not a one-person show (mom or dad only)
  • Disperse the responsibility
    • Get your spouse on board before approaching and convincing the children
    • Take a child with you to help grocery shop
    • Bring the family into the kitchen to help
      • Designate different days for different tasks per child
      • Let them be creative and interact with the food
      • Hands-on nutrition: peaks interest in food variety for picky eaters


Embrace The Chaos

  • Remember: Making this collaboration happen is not an easy task
    • It is easy to say, “I could do this faster if I just did it myself” but the results and payoff of spending those extra minutes have results that last a lifetime
  • By adding elements of fun your children are more likely to willingly participate
  • Learning small tasks and table manners come naturally when they are involved in the cooking process and engaged at the dinner table
    • Your children may not be accustomed to sitting around a table but they will learn and adapt with time
  • “Embrace your chaos, embrace your family, fix the things you can fix and just do the best that you can. It will get better as time goes on.” - Leanne Ely


Engaging Resistant Children

  • If your child has a developmental or behavioral disorder do not lose heart
    • Your child can still learn and benefit greatly from this time together
    • Teach simple tasks and follow them with great acknowledgment and applaud every achievement
    • Repetition is key to success
  • Do not let one child dictate the standards you want for your family


No-Device Zone

  • Mealtimes are a good starting point to create boundaries with electronic devices
  • Having device-free mealtimes is essential to connect with one another and build relationships
  • Begin by weaning your children off of the device for this occasion vs just taking it away
    • Come up with a plan that works best for you and your family
      • Maybe that is allowing them to use the device until the table is set and everyone sits down and then puts their phone in a basket for the duration of the meal
      • Remember everyone’s family is unique and you know your family best!


Where to learn more about Leanne Ely...


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