Gathering around the table to eat as a family has all kinds of benefits. Family meals allow parents to be role models who create a supportive environment for the entire family.
‘August is Kids Eat Right Month™, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles for children and their families. ’
"Research shows that families who regularly dine together are more likely to eat more fruits, vegetables and fiber and are less likely to eat fried foods," says Kristen Gradney, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson in Baton Rouge, La.
"Eating together promotes healthy weight in children, perhaps due to more nourishing food choices, and can encourage them to try new foods," she says. "Families who eat together tend to be closer because it encourages conversations. Children feel more comfortable sharing their feelings, which can help lessen behavioral problems and may improve their grades."
Here are some ideas to help you make and enjoy family meals after a busy day:
Keep it simple. Don't try to make meals that need a dozen ingredients or more. With your kids, develop a small collection of favorite go-to recipes to help you get in and out of the kitchen in less than 30 minutes.
Choose ingredients that multitask. Save time by stocking up on ingredients you can use for more than one meal. Grill six chicken breasts tonight for dinner instead of three, then reheat the leftover chicken tomorrow and make fajitas.
Drive past the drive-through. A trip to a favorite takeout place might seem like a speedy way to get dinner on the table, but it could be adding to your family's collective waistline. A simple homemade meal, with lean protein, whole grains and fresh (or frozen or canned) vegetables can provide the nutrients your family needs — without the extra salt, added sugars and saturated fat. Serve with low-fat or fat-free milk and fruit for dessert.
Make family meals a habit. Tell every family member to be home for dinner at a set time. They'll start to look forward to this special family time and arrange their schedules around it.
Make it fun. Add some excitement to family meals with theme dinners: Use a checkered tablecloth for an Italian-inspired meal, or prepare an Asian dish and eat with chopsticks. Have a picnic ... in a park, your backyard or on the living room floor.
Share the experience. Talk and listen to each other while you eat. Have everyone at the table share something that happened that day or week — funny, weird, scary, good or bad.
Start your new tradition today, making a commitment to eating at least one meal together each week. Before you know it, dinner will be a time everyone in the family looks forward to. For more healthful eating tips, visit Kids Eat Right.
Visit the Kids Eat Right Month media materials which include the 2019 campaign graphic, infographics, social media resources and more. To schedule an interview with a children's nutrition expert, email firstname.lastname@example.org.