How often does your family eat dinner together? Probably not as often as you'd like. You’re not alone, recent research from HelloFresh UK found:

  • Five in ten parents admit to feeding their children before themselves

  • 14% of parents say their children’s table manners are so bad and it’s too stressful to eat together

  • 58% said their children’s fussy eating causes arguments in the house

  • One in ten said that their children won’t stay seated at the table

  • 60% of children are allowed to eat their evening meal in front of the TV or a tablet

  • 4% of children eat dinner in their bedrooms

On the flip side, the same research revealed that 51 per cent of those questioned recognised the benefits of sitting down for dinner and that it did help them to communicate better, talk through issues and was a great way to spend quality time together.

Eating dinner as a family is not easy, especially if you’re coming home from work in the evening and have to prepare something for yourself and maybe something separate for the kids. With that in mind, we accepted a challenge from HelloFresh UK to try join the #DinnerTimeChallenge and eat dinner together every day for 30 days. We are 18 days in and we’ve failed twice. Blame modern life! But for the 16 days we were able to, we have enjoyed our time together in the kitchen.

The company is called HelloFresh, and the food certainly is fresh. The kids and the Mr keep asking me: 'what sauce have you put in here' and 'what's that delicious flavour?' but I've not gone off piste recipe wise so I tell them it's just the quality of the ingredients. You really can taste the difference!

The HelloFresh system is simple:

  • Choose a box – either family, classic or veggie (for 2, 3 or 4 people)

  • Choose a delivery day

  • Sit back and wait for your food to arrive

Our box arrives on a Monday and you receive everything (down to the last required teaspoon of herbs and spices) you need to create the meal on the recipe card. To help the kids feel involved, we unpack the box of ingredients together and decide what meal we are going to have on which day.

Where appropriate, we let them get involved with the cooking – washing and chopping veg, throwing things into the pan, stirring things etc. Yes, it makes cooking take a tad longer but we find they’re more invested in eating the food when they’ve had a hand in helping cook it. Most of the meals can be made in 30 - 40 minutes so it’s not a long hard slog. 

It’s easy to get into the routine of cooking the same handful of meals on rotation (I hope that’s not just me) but with HelloFresh, you’re forced to cook foods and recipes you wouldn’t usually try. It’s not all trial and error though, if you know the kids just won’t eat a certain thing, each week you can choose from a predetermined list of meals and omit any recipes you know the battle to get them to eat just won’t be won.

Still need a bit of convincing the effort to eat dinner together is worth it?

  1. Having an official mealtime leads to us feeling fuller, recognising the feeling of hunger and snacking less.

  2. Eating as a family is a great way to manage children who either under or over eat. If a child is a picky eater and tends to under eat then eating with others will encourage them to eat the same as everyone else. If a child tends to over-eat then the table, plate size, seeing others eating will help them modify their food intake without making food an issue and again they will just fit in with everyone and eat the same.

  3. Eating at a regular time each day helps people to learn to enjoy the feeling of being hungry (rather than eating immediately), learn to wait to eat and then learn that eating a meal is more satisfying if you have become hungry beforehand

  4. Dinnertime is a chance for everyone to talk about their day and can give parents a time to listen to any problems or achievements the child may have had

  5. Picky eating can make families not want to eat together, but this just makes the situation worse. If they can, families should persist in eating together, cook food that all the family likes and then ignore any tricky behaviour focusing on chat not food. Eventually the children will give in and eat the same as everyone else.

Let’s be real though, sometimes eating dinner together is hard work! Jane Ogden, Professor in Health Psychology, University of Surrey, author of The Good Parenting Food Guide suggests the following:

Six ways to make dinner time easier:

Photo by Luisa Brimble

Photo by Luisa Brimble

  1. You don’t need to serve up gourmet food every night. Know what works for your family and build on that. Eat together, talk about the day, not the food and try to make meal time a place of talking, not tension.

  2. Eat at the same time each day (where possible). This way, the kids can learn to manage their hunger and realise that eating is more satisfying if you are hungry at the start

  3. Make meals about chatting not the food. If a family member is picky about food, give them the same as everyone else, but don't make a fuss, don't talk about it, just chat about the day and eventually they will eat what everyone else is eating.

  4. Cook from scratch as often as possible (not ready meals or takeaways) but be happy with basic, easy, healthy meals. Not everyone can be a TV chef. It just has to be good enough.

  5. If someone persists in not liking something ('I still don't like broccoli'), continue to cook it, put it on their plate but don't make a fuss if they don't eat it. Eventually, by the time they have grown up, they will! Think about inviting friends round for tea and give them all broccoli. Peer pressure is very powerful. (We’ve tried this, it’s true!)

  6. Keep it consistent: try to cook everyone the same food. If your family have different preferences cook one person's favourite one day and another's favourite the next.

You’re probably wondering about the HelloFresh costs: a Family box costs £64 and contains four different meals for four people and the recipes go easy on the spices and strong flavours. You’re averaging £16 a day, or £4 a person. There is zero wastage as you are sent exactly what you need to create the meal and nothing more.

If you’re not sure you want to commit to a weekly subscription, try a one-off box for four people, three meals at £62. Try the #DinnerTimeChallenge and tag us on Instagram @thelondonmother so we can see your creations.