Nutrition-wise blog

Is the family dinner a thing of the past?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. August 14, 2013

It was once a staple of everyday life, the center of our homes and the place where families regrouped at the end of the day. Yes, I'm talking about the family dinner table. Today, it's likely to be hidden under dust and piles of papers and mail.

Does clearing the clutter and sitting down for a family meal have benefits? Yes, and not just for nostalgic reasons. Turns out that eating at least 3-5 meals as a family each week appears to have the following benefits:

  • A sense of family connectedness, routine and stability
  • Improved school performance
  • Lower risk of substance abuse and delinquency
  • Healthier eating habits
  • Healthier weight and a reduced risk of obesity and disordered eating

Even kids can see that the family meal is important. A survey of adolescents revealed that they believed they would eat healthier if they ate more meals with their families. They also expressed a desire for their parents to prepare healthy meals at home.

You're probably thinking that getting your family around the dinner table is easier said than done. True. But here are few strategies for bringing your family together for a shared meal:

  • Get picky eaters involved. Include your children in meal planning. Invite them to pick out the entree, vegetable and fruit for the meal. Give children age-appropriate tasks in meal prep, such as setting and clearing the table.
  • Think outside the box. Dinner isn't the only meal you can share. Eat breakfast or a snack together. Pack a picnic and take it along to the evening activity.
  • Plan ahead and have a plan B. Carve out 10-20 minutes to look ahead at your calendar and make a grocery list. Match the meals to your schedule. Prepare meals on your day off for reheating later in the week. And keep a list of quick meals you can throw together from kitchen staples.

Are you struggling to get your family together for a meal? Or have you and your family found your way back to the dinner table? What strategies work for your family? Please share.

To your health and the health of your family,

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Aug. 14, 2013