Ring the Dinner Bell for Family Meals!
Days filled with work, school, meetings and other activities often keep busy families from getting to the dinner table to enjoy a meal together. Celebrate Family Wellness Month this May by making family meal times a part of your daily routine. Here are some ideas that can make sharing a family meal easy.
Why Family Meals?
A family meal is a place for shared social interaction, a chance to learn and teach, time to explore different foods, and a place to build family unity. Children who experience family meal times have:
- Improved nutrition
- Fewer behavioral problems
- Higher self-esteem
- Improved academic performance
- Happier families
How to Make Family Meals Happen in Your Home
- Make it a priority. Have a scheduled time each day for a family meal. This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Turn off the TV and other distractions. Allow conversation to flow between you and your children.
- Be flexible. A family meal may only be 15 minutes, but as long as you are together, it counts! Adjust meal times to fit your family’s schedule.
- Involve everyone. While mom or dad cooks, have one child help and another set the table. Make the entire meal, from cooking to cleaning, a family effort.
- Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be crunched for time during the week plan your weekly menu ahead of time. Make a corresponding grocery list and buy the items you need just for that week. Having them on hand will be huge time savers come mid-week.
- Create a positive atmosphere. Talk, listen, and laugh. Mealtime is a time to relax and connect with your family.
Tips for Improving Nutrition Habits with Family Meals
- Be a role model. Encourage your children to try new foods by trying them yourself.
- Add variety. Switch things up and try different fruits, vegetables and whole grains at meal times.
- Practice makes perfect. Introducing new foods takes practice. Serving a new food to your child may take at least 24 tries until he or she accepts the food. Try preparing them in different ways.
- Serve nutrient rich. Familiarize your family with different types of whole grains like quinoa, brown or wild rice, and barley. Choose lean meat, fish and poultry for protein. Experiment with fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts for high fiber and healthy fats. Use dairy products like low-fat or fat-free milk and cheese to round out your meal.