In the midst of our busy lives and hectic schedules, taking the time to sit down and eat together with the family can often get neglected. September is National Family Meals Month, a great opportunity to prioritize family life and improve our nutrition.
The start of the school year is the perfect time to start serving meals at home and renew your commitment to the family. Countless studies have shown that regular family meals are linked to positive outcomes for our children, including improved grades, positive self-esteem and healthier eating habits. A study in 2014 showed that structured meals strongly influence a child’s long-term health.
Family mealtime doesn’t just mean eating together; it also includes cooking together, talking with each other, and spending time to form positive relationships. Family mealtime has been proven to benefit the health and wellness of children and adolescents, and can create a positive impact in our community.
Here are just a few benefits of family mealtime, as well as some tips that can improve your meals together:
Taking the time to sit down together gives everyone a chance to learn more about each other. Plus, it adds a sense of security in family life. Put the cell phones away and turn the TV off; take this time to connect and make memories together. Incorporating family mealtime now is a lesson that your children can use for life.
Meals prepared at home are typically more nutritious than those eaten while dining out. You get to control the ingredients and have the freedom to remove or add certain ingredients to your dishes. Preparing food with the family can help your children learn more about appropriate portion sizes and food groups.
Try to set a good example by preparing healthy food options for the meal such as lean protein, fresh vegetables and whole grains. You can start by letting your children serve themselves at dinner, and teaching them to take small amounts at first and more if they get hungry later.
Learning To Cook
Kids love to help cook and prepare food, especially if it means spending more time with the family. This is a nice time to teach your children basic cooking skills that they can use in college and further on in life. Try to prepare some family recipes together to help pass on tradition and embrace your family culture.
Preparing meals at home is typically cheaper than going out to eat, and the price gap between cooking and dining out is growing larger. Buy your groceries in bulk for even more savings and reap the benefits of more cost-effective and healthier meals.
Make It Simple
Family mealtime does not need to be a fancy affair! If anything, keeping it simple makes it more enjoyable for the whole family. You can try to prep a few meals in the beginning of the week, or even purchase something premade. It’s important to spend enough time together, but sitting for too long can lead to distraction and irritability. Keep things simple and make family mealtime something for everyone to look forward to.
Any Mealtime Can Be Family Mealtime
Family mealtime doesn’t have to just mean dinner. Breakfast may be the only feasible option for getting the entire family at the table together during the day. Whatever it may be, just make time to sit together and enjoy a meal.
Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian nutritionist at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private and group nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit www.StefHealthTips.com for more information.