Creating a happy family meal time is easier than you think. Here's how:
Firstly you need to eat with your kids at the table and turn the TV off. Creating a nice supportive environment where you can role model healthy eating is one of the biggest predictors of children's diet. At least one parent should sit and eat with the kids at least once a day. If you currently feed the kids dinner early and eat later with your partner, it's time to change (harsh, I know but you can still enjoy your partner's company while they eat). And if you currently cook different meals for the different dinner sittings, now is the time to give yourself a break and cook one meal (you can combine food kids love with new foods to make it less scary for the kids).
Secondly set some family table rules. Teach your kids to sit at the table and chat, preferably even once they have finished (this may improve with age but start to encourage it). Involve them in the setting the table (they can choose some nice plates, maybe some napkins) and the cleaning up. Most importantly teach them the food politeness rule.
Lastly create a loving and calm environment which encourages kids to try new foods and ultimately enjoy healthy foods. They can learn that healthy food is fun and enjoyable, not about being gruffly told to "eat your veggies". Stop the nagging and start talking about your day and the food. Forget bribing but remember marketing. Use descriptive words like crunchy, sweet, colourful and fresh. Encourage kids to not just taste and food but see it and smell it as well. Sell healthy foods to your kids by explaining fish is brain food for tomorrow's test, that green foods help you jump high and veggies of the traffic light make you a faster swimming.
I often have nights where one of my kids tells me they are not going to eat. We ask them to just sit and wait at the table. Ask them about their day. Talk about how delicious the meal is. Usually within a couple of minutes, they start eating and I smile to myself.
How do you create a fun family meal time?