Enjoy the benefits of having dinner as a family!
Makin’ it Easy
Family meals benefit children both psychologically and academically.
Studies indicate that teens of all races, ages and ethnic groups who participated in family mealtime were better adjusted emotionally and socially, had better grades and had lower rates of negative behaviors such as alcohol and drug use (Satter, 2005).
In addition, family meals contribute nutritionally to a child’s development. Children and teens who participated in family dinners consumed less fat, soda and fried foods and more fruits and vegetables and nutrients (Gillman et al., 2000).
Despite the positive results of eating meals together, families often struggle trying to fit them in with sports, afterschool activities, workplace engagements, etc. But, even the busiest families can incorporate family mealtimes with a little planning and consistency.
Tips for Incorporating Family Meals:
• Set a goal:
You may not be able to eat every meal together, so 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.
• Plan ahead:
Keep ingredients for healthy meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
• Make it a family affair:
Get the entire family involved in meal preparation. Young children can stir and set the table and older children can cut vegetables for a salad.
• Use the crock pot:
Put all ingredients together before work in the morning. You’ll come home to a delicious meal that is ready to be served.
• Make it enjoyable:
Family meals are for nourishment, comfort and support. Ask each member to share something special that happened that the day.
• Turn off the TV:
Make sharing the meal the priority. Leave television, phone calls and texting till later.
Families share different activities and schedules, so family mealtimes are unique to each individual family. Even though there may be barriers, it is possible to make successful family meals happen for you and your family.
Gillman, M. W., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., Frazier, Rockett, H. R., Camargo, C. A., Field, A. E., Berkey, C. S., & Colditz, G. A. (2000). Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of Family Medicine, 9, 235-240.
Satter, E. (2005). Your child’s weight: Helping without harming. Madison, WI: Kelcy Press.
This article was written by Shannon Cromwell, Extension Assistant Professor