October is Eat Together, Eat Better Month. If you’re not already onboard with family meals, make a commitment to start small. Add one more family meal to your weekly schedule for a host of benefits.
Yes, it’s true! When families eat together, they eat better. Specifically, kids who eat with their families eat more fruits and vegetables. Plus, they’re more likely to be at a healthful weight and less likely to engage in disordered eating. But that’s not all. Meal time is an important time for the entire family to connect. Research tells us that when teens eat regularly with their families, the teens are at lower risk of using drugs, have better mental health and feel more connected at home. Kids tend to do better in school too!
As hard as it was to put a family dinner on the table most nights, I wouldn’t have traded this important time for anything. It brought my family closer together, and it helped shape my girls’ values. They also learned about good basic nutrition. Today they know that fruits and vegetables are part of a balanced meal, that they should eat only until they are no longer hungry, and that it’s fun to try new foods and recipes.
Have More Family Meals
- Get everyone onboard. Talk to your family about the obstacles that get in the way of having more family meals. For some families, it’s as simple as clearing the kitchen table of papers and mail.
- Be organized. Plan a meal and shop for groceries.
- Make it fun. Keep the TV off. Have a theme night now and then. Try Taco Tuesday, or have an indoor picnic on the floor. Practice using chopsticks with Asian food, and light candles for a fancy meal.
- Strike up a conversation. Once a week or so, ask everyone to be prepared to share the highlight of their day, or a worry, a wish they have for the future, or something funny that happened.
- Get everyone involved. Plan the menu together, or let family members take turns picking recipes. Let older kids shop for groceries and younger ones set the table or count out the right number of forks, napkins or ingredients for a recipe.
You may already have favorite recipes passed down through the generations. If you do, keep adding to this collection. If not, start collecting right away. Here are a few that your family is sure to love.
- Lemon Chicken
- Santa Fe Veggie Chili
- Alabama Fancy Fish Tacos
- Aztec Grain Salad
- A Simple Mexican Salad
Sharing a meal together is a sure way to bring your family closer together and to instill good eating habits. It’s worth the effort. I promise.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and two upcoming books, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Diabetes Association. Jill is a paid contributor to Sucralose.org. Follow Jill on Twitter @NutritionJill and find more at www.JillWeisenberger.com.