Dayle Hayes, R.D.
Surveys confirm that most parents and children enjoy family meals - and that most want to eat together more often. Get your family on the mealtime track by making a commitment to enjoy more meals together. Take a quick inventory of how many times you usually eat together, and then use these five easy tips to make family mealtimes more of a priority in your home.
Plan to enjoy one more family mealtime every week
Look for easy ways to add one more family meal to your weekly schedule. If evenings seem too hectic for a family dinner, set aside time for a weekend breakfast or lunch. After a month or two of this new pattern, you can then add another family meal each week until you are enjoying mealtime together most days of the week.
Plan to enjoy tasty menus for family meals together
If you think that putting a meal together has to be complicated or time-consuming, think again! The best meals are simple, delicious and planned together. Let everyone choose a favorite menu. Even small children can pick a main dish (like tacos or pasta), a vegetable (green salad or cooked carrots), and fruit for dessert (sliced apples or a fruit salad).
Plan to set an appealing table for family meals
Food is just one important part of mealtime. There are really easy ways to set the mood for a relaxed time around the table. A little extra attention to the actual table setting can add a lot to mealtime atmosphere (with very little expense). Here are a few everyday possibilities: a candle, colored napkins, and wipe-clean, plastic tablemats for children.
Plan to enjoy conversation at the table
The conversations that families have while eating together offer many benefits. Children learn new words from adults—and adults are able to share their values with the next generation. Choose topics that are positive and allow everyone to talk. Even toddlers like to discuss topics like “what is your favorite color” or “what made you laugh today.”
Plan to enjoy distraction-free meals
TVs, DVDs, multiple phone calls, and text messaging can distract anyone—making it difficult to eat or to carry on a conversation. The solution is simple: Declare mealtime an electronics-free zone (except for an emergency phone call, of course). Imagine that you are dining at a nice restaurant and play some soothing background music at low volume.
Use the nutrient-rich shopping list below as a guide to prepare for family mealtime at your house.
Nutrient Rich Shopping List for Family Meals