Family Meal Time
The family dinner hour is an important part of healthy living. When families dine together, they tend to eat more vegetables and fruits -- and fewer fried foods, soda, and other unhealthy foods. When younger kids frequently eat dinner with their families, they are less likely to be overweight than other children.
It's a serious concern, approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents aged 2-19 (17%) are obese in the U.S. That puts them at higher risk for many health problems later in life, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes -- as well as emotional problems.
Benefits of Family Dinners
- Everyone eats healthier meals
- Children are less likely to become overweight or obese
- Children are less likely to drink alcohol, do drugs or smoke
- Improved academic performance
- Improved family communication
Time is a big challenge for most families, but even the busiest families can find time to eat together.
- Set a goal. You don’t have to eat every meal together, start with twice a week and build from there.
- Keep it simple. You don’t have to make a four-course meal every night. Making a veggie pizza or heating up leftovers counts! Add a salad or side of fruit for a complete meal.
- Be prepared. Keep ingredients for healthful meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Plan ahead. Try to anticipate work, school and other activities that may affect meal time and work around them.
- Make it a family affair. Get everyone involved in the preparation of the meal. Young children can stir, and older children can make a salad or set the table.
- Use the crock pot. Put everything together before leaving for work in the morning. You'll come home to the delicious smell of a cooked meal.
- Be flexible. Be flexible about when and where you eat. Try a picnic lunch in your backyard, or on the living room floor, or breakfast for dinner.
- Make it enjoyable. Leave the serious discussions for another time. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort, and support.
- Turn off the TV. This is time for listening to each other, sharing the day's stories, not watching TV, or talking/texting on the phone.