Let’s Resurrect the Family Meal
By Medina County Health Department Registered Dietitian
Many of us remember the days when our parents sent us out of the house to play and didn’t expect us back until the next meal. “Dinner at 6:00 and don’t be late!” Families of today tend to look very different than those of the past. After-school activities, late work days, long commutes – it’s no wonder few families eat dinner together.
Family meals are much more than just having something to eat; they are an opportunity to teach, enjoy, and bond with each other.
Sharing a meal is one way to build family unity. It gives children a sense of belonging and helps them feel safe and secure in a busy, and often confusing, world. Family meals offer the chance to teach social skills, manners, and even basic cooking skills that will last a lifetime. Evidence indicates that children have better report cards and teens are less likely to become depressed, abuse drugs and alcohol, smoke, develop eating disorders and get pregnant when they participate in regular family meals.
Family meals offer an opportunity to model healthy eating habits and reduce a child’s risk for obesity. Children who have more family meals eat more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and milk. They also eat less fried foods and drink less soda.
The family meal doesn’t have to be fancy, complicated or at the same time every day. The importance is to find a time to come together with the people you care about to eat, laugh, discuss and share. Turn off the television, silence the cell phones; connect with your family.
Tips to make your family meal a success:
- Involve your children in meal planning and preparation. It teaches them valuable life skills and increases the chance that they will eat the meal.
- Choose a meal that fits into your schedule. Family mealtimes do not have to be a dinner.
- Start small. Choose one or two times a week to set aside for a family meal. Build up as your schedule allows.
- When cooking a meal, double up and freeze half for another busy day.
- Parents should decide what time the meal is served and what food choices will be available. Children decide which foods they eat and how much. Make the meal stress free.
- Keep the conversation light. Avoid conflict and discipline during meal times.
- Keep your meals distraction free. Turn off the television, silence the cell phones and put other electronic devices away.
The Medina County Health Department offers many programs and services that can help you plan and learn more about healthy eating. For more information, log onto www.medinahealth.org or contact us at 330-723-9688 or toll-free at 1-888-723-9688.
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