Are you concerned about what your child does (and does not) eat? The solution could be as close as your kitchen table. Gathering around the table to eat as a family has many benefits. Family meals allow parents to be role models who create a supportive environment that promotes healthy eating.
Family meals can mean more than better nutrition. Children of families who regularly eat together also are more likely to have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables and are less likely to be obese, have behavior problems, or use drugs, cigarettes or alcohol when they get older. No wonder family meals are on the upswing!
Try these 5 easy-to-follow tips to make family meals happen more often in your home:
1. Keep It Simple.
Attempting to make a meal with 20 ingredients can be a recipe for disaster. Instead, build a small collection of go-to recipes to help you get in and out of the kitchen in under 30 minutes.
2. Choose Ingredients That Multitask.
Ingredients you can use for more than one meal are a major time saver. Instead of making just three chicken breasts, consider making six. This way, you can use the extras in other dishes later in the week, such as chicken salad or fajitas.
3. Make Family Meals a Habit.
Make sure each family member knows that everyone is to be home for dinner at a particular time. When everyone expects to enjoy dinner at a specific time, they will begin to look forward to this and will arrange their schedules around it.
4. It's OK to Ask For Help.
You have a little army of helpers right at your fingertips. Asking kids to set the table, pour drinks, chop veggies or help make a salad doesn't just make your job easier - it also teaches them that taking the time and effort to eat together as a family is important. Little kids can practice counting skills by getting the correct number of forks and napkins for the table. Teens love the independence they have when shopping for groceries. Hand them a grocery list and enough money to cover it and let them pick out an extra vegetable or some whole-grain bread for dinner.
5. Make Family Meals Fun.
Add some fun and excitement with food themes. You can use a checkered tablecloth for an Italian-inspired meal, or prepare fresh Asian-inspired cuisine and eat with chopsticks. Throw a blanket on your family room floor and enjoy a family picnic. Let everyone choose a theme, and you will see that your choices are endless.
Start your new family meal tradition today by making a commitment to eating at least one meal together each week. Many families look forward to and love a dinner tradition. Before you know it, family dinner will be a time that everyone looks forward to enjoying together!
The Family That Eats Together, Benefits
Health Tip: Preparing Nutritious Meals
By Kelly Devine Rickert, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN
Registered Dietitian/Health Coach, Franciscan WELLCARE