With today’s hectic, over-scheduled lifestyles, the real challenge for most families is to make the family meal the rule rather than the exception. Here are three easy steps to help ensure your family enjoys some quality time around the table every week:
1. Aim for five family meals each week
Researchers recommend sitting down to an enjoyable family meal at least five times a week. That’s the number of occurrences found to have the most positive impact on a child’s health and well-being. Start tracking how many times your family eats together. If it’s less than five times each week, focus on adding one meal per week until you achieve this goal. If your family sits down to at least five family meals each week, congratulate yourself. You’re on track!
2. Plan to eat together
The most common barrier to family meals is busy or conflicting schedules, especially when parents have work schedules that allow little flexibility and kids have activities with strict attendance requirements. The solution is to treat family meals like any other important appointment. Find your calendar now, and schedule your family meals—remember, aim for at least five per week—to be sure you keep this important commitment.
3. Choose solutions that fit your schedule
If you can’t avoid scheduling sports practice, dance classes, or other activities for the kids during your typical dinner hour, plan a simple tailgate or bleacher dinner before practice. Remember, you don’t need to cook from scratch, dine at a fancy table, or eat from the good china. You just need to eat a healthy meal and enjoy each other’s company. If dinner is a challenge due to work schedules, consider scheduling regular family breakfasts to achieve your goal of at least five family meals each week. A Sunday morning family breakfast is an ideal, relaxing option. Get the kids involved. You may be surprised at their creative solutions.
Enjoy a great September!
Kathleen & Lorna
Co-authors of Eating for A’s
Lorna Williams, MPH, RD, and Kathleen Dunn, MPH, RD, are registered dietitians who have been collaborating on health and nutrition projects for over 20 years. Together, they launched EatingFor.com, a fun and educational website focusing on child and teen nutrition, and co-authored Eating for A’s: A month-by-month nutrition and lifestyle guide to help raise smarter kids.