Family Meal Time
When something must give, it’s easy to understand why family meals may fall by the wayside. And yet, family meals are not only a time for strengthening family ties and keeping track of your children’s lives, but they can also lead to better physical and mental health for your children! A large body of research also supports the link between family meals and nutrition. A Harvard University study published in the Archives of Family Medicine found that families who ate together almost every day generally consumed more important nutrients and less overall fat than families who rarely ate together. Children and adolescents who eat three or more meals with their families per week are 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods and 12 percent less likely to be overweight than peers who do not eat with their families as often.
Time is a big challenge for most families, but even the busiest families can find time to eat together. Here are ways to make family mealtime happen in your house:
Set a goal. You don’t have to eat every meal together, start with twice a week and build from there.
Keep it simple. You don’t have to make a four-course meal every night. Making a veggie pizza or heating up leftovers counts! Add a salad or side of fruit for a complete meal.
Be prepared. Keep ingredients for healthful meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Plan ahead. Try to anticipate work, school and other activities that may affect mealtime and work around them.
Make it a family affair. Get everyone involved in the preparation of the meal. Young children can stir, and older children can make a salad or set the table.
Use the crockpot. Put everything together before leaving for work in the morning. You’ll come home to the delicious smell of a cooked meal.
Be flexible. Be flexible about when and where you eat. Try a picnic lunch in your backyard, or on the living room floor, or breakfast for dinner.
Make it enjoyable. Leave the serious discussions for another time. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort, and support.
Turn off the TV. This is time for listening to each other, sharing the day’s stories, not watching TV, or talking/texting on the phone.
Eating together is a great way to strengthen family ties and spend time together. Commit to making this time a priority during the week. Time spent eating together as a family will help your children form positive attitudes about food and create family memories that will last a lifetime.