Family Meals, All the Fun
Research findings show families like shared meal time. It is a time for conversation and laughter—just being together1. Of course, there are more benefits than family fun. Both children and adults in families who eat together are healthier2-3. Research also shows children who eat family meals are less likely to be overweight, because food eaten at family meals tends to healthier1-4. Also, children who eat family meals tend to make better grades in school4.
However, having family meals can be challenging. Schedules are often busy, especially as children get older and become involved in their own activities. Some children are picky eaters. Also, conflict can happen at the dinner table. Moreover, preparing a family meal can be quite a bit of work, especially since many of us may have already put in a full day of work outside the home.
ONIE has a few tips to help reduce the stress of family meals and still enjoy all the benefits.
#1. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
This is an old saying, but it is true with family meals. Families benefit from having at least three meals together each week2. Of course, more frequent meals lead to the most benefits. The key is to set a “doable” goal. For example: “As a family we commit to having at least three meals together each week.”
#2. The more the merrier.
With different schedules, it may not be possible for every family member to make it to every meal, but the more family members who attend the better2. Being merry is important as well. Choose to make this time together special. The family meal is a great time to invite family members to talk about their day and for children to practice conversation and listening skills.
#3. Those picky eaters.
Children are often picky eaters. Many are afraid to try new foods. Let your child pick a new vegetable to try at the grocery store. Children can be great helpers in the kitchen too. Once involved with selecting and cooking the food, many children are excited to try it.
#4. No take-out.
Get all the benefits of a family meal by preparing the food yourself. Ordering take-out can be expensive. Plus, many of these foods are loaded with salt. If you make the food, you will know what is in it.
#5. MAKE IT EASY ON THE COOK!
Everyone can pitch in, whether it be cleaning up or helping with cooking. It is the time together that is most important. Another tip is try recipes that do not require a lot of preparation and only use a few ingredients. For example frozen vegetables have already been washed, peeled, sliced, and chopped for you. It is easy to add them to your recipe. Also, ONIE also has many recipes that are budget friendly and only require a few ingredients. Click HERE to choose an easy recipe to prepare for dinner tonight!
For the ONIE team, there is no down side to more family meals. Have fun, make it easy to prepare meals, and enjoy good conversation.
The ONIE Team
- Cook, E. & Dunifon, R. (2012). Do family meals really make a difference? (Cornell University College of Human Ecology, Department of Policy Analysis and Management). Retrieved from http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/upload/Family-Mealtimes-2.pdf
- Didericksen, K. W., & Berge, J. M. (2015). Modeling the relationship between family home environment factors and parental health. Families, Systems, & Health, 33(2), 126-136. doi: 10.1037/fsh0000115
- Fulkerson, J. A., Story, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., & Rydell, S. (2008). Family meals: Perceptions of benefits and challenges among parents of 8- to 10-Year-old children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(4), 706-709. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.01.005
- Rovner, A. J., Mehta, S. N., Haynie, D. L., Robinson, E. M., Pound, H. J., Butler, D. A., . . . Nansel, T. R. (2010). Perceived benefits, barriers, and strategies of family meals amongchildren with Type 1 diabetes mellitus and their parents: Focus-group findings. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(9), 1302-1306. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.06.010