You hear it all the time: the importance of family meal time, spending one meal eating together every day as a family is beneficial to the entire family. For many busy families, it’s easier said than done so I wanted to offer:
How to bring back family meal time
1. Remember the benefits.
I’ve found that when families take the “We Make Healthy Choice” pledge (link), committing to eating healthy meals the whole family will enjoy is often the catalyst to bring back family meal time.
Plus when you eat slower and more purposefully–which happens more easily together around the table rather than on the go or wolfing your food down in front of the TV–you enjoy your food more and digestion is more effective. Studies show that children who eat regular family meals also eat more fruits and vegetables, less fried food and soda, less saturated and trans fat. The effects of family dinner continue to reap benefits as kids grow up; adolescences that eat regular family meals are less likely to be overweight into young adulthood.
2. Cook one meal that everyone eats.
You will hear me mention it a lot: you don’t have to be a short-order cook. Of course you’ll still occasionally serve crowd favorites like macaroni and cheese and hot dogs but that doesn’t mean those are options available as substitutes for every meal you make. Help your family get into a mindset that says “We’re all making healthier choices together.” Even if every dish isn’t a hit, just trying the same foods creates camaraderie and happy memories, even if it means “Remember that time Mom made that weird cauliflower pizza??”
3. Disconnect so everyone can reconnect.
Strictly enforce a no screen, device, phone rule at the dinner table, including Mom and Dad. This allows everyone an opportunity to unplug and unwind in the midst of busy days and hectic schedules. Make mealtime a chance to “check in” with each family member, this could be casual conversation or a more intentional round robin style where everyone mentions the best thing that happened to him or her that day and the worst thing. (Some families call it joys and concerns, others roses and thorns.) Another fun option are family meal conversation starters, like this one or this one, which encourage story telling, silly thoughts and dream sharing.
4. Let everyone participate.
Get the whole family involved in the meal process makes it easier on the cook and more fun for everyone. The more invested your family members are in the meal, the more likely they are to enjoy it. Enlist helpers to clip vegetables from the garden, put the salad together, pre-measures ingredients and assist with clean-up.
Let’s rally together to bring back family meal time! Let me know how it’s working for you and if you have any questions.