Are family meals a lost art?
In our world today, with fast-paced lives, busy work schedules and extracurricular activities, drive-through meals and takeout food have become the norm. What impact does this have on our kids, our families and ourselves? As the trend moves toward simplicity and convenience, let’s not overlook the fact that preparing and eating meals together stimulates communication, creates memories and establishes healthy eating behaviors that have a long-lasting impact.
Research shows when families eat meals together on a regular basis, they have greater unity and closer relationships. Children in families who eat together are better adjusted to the pressures of society. These children are more comfortable and confident in their own skin. The long-term nutritional benefits for individuals who have grown up eating family meals are clear too. The percentage of family members who are overweight, or abuse alcohol or drugs, is significantly lower in families who eat meals together on a regular basis than those who don’t.
Historically, traditional family meals were part of an everyday ritual, like brushing teeth. Homemade meals were prepared from scratch, dinner was served at the same time every night, and family members had assigned seats. Lessons and wisdom were shared over the dinner table. Children grew in their character, learning manners, self-discipline and gratitude.
When schedules are busy, and time is at a premium, there is still hope for the family meal. September is National Family Meals Month, which means it’s the perfect time to start making family meals a normal occurrence in your home.
Here are a few tips on how to do it:
• Pick one or two days a week for everyone to commit to.
• Pick a recipe and side dishes the family can agree on. Choose foods from all food groups, and foods that vary in color, taste and texture, to increase nutritional benefit.
• Choose a recipe that allows for convenience. Slow-cooker meals, casseroles and grilled meats are all good ideas.
• Plan for conversation starters. For example, have everyone go around the table and say one thing they are grateful for, or share an interesting story from their day.
• Keep everyone in touch by turning the television off and having a “no phones at the dinner table” policy.