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Food

Not until you finish your dinner...

by Sarah Alcock

As a nation, we're pretty good at feeding our families. According to a new survey by mumsnet.com, 76% of parents cook meals from scratch every day but 86% of parents throw away food from their childrens' plates.

Getting everyone together is only the first hurdle of family eating. We were talking in the office about our family meal-time challenges and it turns out everyone has their own tactics and tricks to make sure dinner time runs as smoothly as possible.

How are your meal times? Do you have any tips to make sure you don't throw away whole plates of food?

Franckie, deputy chief sub-editor

My daughter Clarice is only 20 months, but she's a pretty good eater. However, if we're trying her with something new, we tend to give her a little taster alongside something we know she likes. She's not keen on veg, though, which usually ends up on the floor. So we just put a small amount on her plate and, if it's still there at the end of the meal, one of us will eat it. She'll come round to veg eventually...

Helena, editor

The best thing I ever did was allow my daughter Jess a list of five foods she hated and didn't have to eat (after all we all have things we dislike) but she had to eat everything else. That list was written when she was about five; it's still on the wall and she's now 16! It's sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms and courgettes. She eats the last three now, mainly when they are chopped into a stew or one pot dish.

Kate, chief sub-editor

I've had enough of moaning and arguments about food, so now I draw up a list of the week's meals on a Sunday, check it with the kids (aged 10 and 13), then I order all the ingredients online on a Monday. It's made life loads easier – although I still get the odd evening when someone forgets they've agreed to something and complain that they 'always have such-and-such!' But of course I have the agreed list as proof now!

Michelle, deputy editor

I'm a tyrant at the table. No phones and no TV (unless there's something I really want to watch!). I try really hard not to let the kids (12 and 16) eat in the living room, but I know it goes on when I'm not there. I even attempt to engage them in conversation.
I don't think it's a good idea to force children to finish everything on their plates. Some children (and adults) don't like big piled-up plates of food, so it's best not to overload them in the first place, and offer seconds if they clear their plates.

Liz, art director

We have some rewards that we offer if the kids (five and seven, pictured above) eat their food, such as a choice of film afterwards or a short play on the iPad. We never force them to finish every last bit, though; we just encourage them to eat the majority and to try foods that they may have never tasted before. If we're out having a meal, we always make sure we have colouring books and crayons so the girls don't get bored while sitting waiting for food.

For more information about the survey, head to http://www.mumsnet.com/food/family-meals-survey-2013

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