Reintroducing Family Meals
With the hectic pace of life it’s easy to skip traditional family meals. But more and more research is pointing to the benefits of family meals, especially when they occur at least three times a week. According to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who experience shared meal times may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 12% less likely to be overweight and 24% more likely to eat healthier food. While other factors certainly come in to play, there’s no denying the links between family meals and health. While you may understand the importance of family dinners, making it happen every night can feel like a big challenge for parents. Here are some simple ways to make sure everyone meets around the table:
Make it Happen
The most important factors in family meals are consistency and healthy food. Planning a week’s worth of elaborate meals can feel exhausting and it’s tempting to give up before you begin. Instead aim for three healthy but simple family meals. Even if life gets crazy and you end up eating veggies and hummus together around the table, it’s still better than opting for fast food.
A dinnertime gathering might not work for all families. Consider making Family Breakfast a tradition if parents work later shifts or kids have evening activities. Keeping the focus on time together and whole foods can help make family meals an enjoyable routine rather than a hassle.
Tips for Making Family Meals Count
Once you establish the routine there are a number of ways to get the most out of your healthy family dinner:
• Let kids help cook. A Canadian study shows children who help with meal preparation tend to eat healthier. Involving your children in making the meal also allows you to talk with them while you work (and occupy their busy minds)!
• Turn off the devices. All sitting in the same area while looking at your phones doesn’t count as quality time. Turn off the TV and put away smartphones during the meal. Paying attention to your meal also helps you feel more satiated and prevents overeating.
• Ask questions. This time together is the perfect excuse to find out more about what’s going on in your partner and children’s lives. But sometimes it takes more than a “How was your day?” to get to the good stuff. Try asking specific questions like, “Tell me something that made you laugh today,“ or “What did you play at recess?”