Eat dinner as a family.
With our busy schedules – after-school activities, long commutes, work schedules – it can be tough for a family to sit down and enjoy a meal together. But spending this time together as a family can be one of the most important things you do for your family.
Eating together has been shown to have great benefits for you and your children:
- Families who eat together develop strong parent child bonds. Children are likely to talk and share things with their parents during dinner.
- Teens who regularly have meals together are less likely to get into fights or be promiscuous.
- Teens who regularly eat dinner as a family are less likely to take drugs, drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.
- Children with families that eat together do better academically.
- Families that eat together generally eat more nutritiously, and children are less likely to be overweight.
- Children that are involved by setting the table and clearing the dishes learn important skills.
- Eating dinner together teaches kids manners: saying please and thank you, sitting still, chewing with their mouths closed, taking a small enough bite of their food that it doesn’t end up smeared all over their face.
- Kids associate having family meals together as having a more stable home environment.
- Having family meals together can save money.
- They grow up so fast, it’s time to make memories.
Here are some great tips on how to get the family together for dinner:
Eating dinner as a family helps us thrive in all areas: family, community, health, environment and our economy.
- Keep it simple. Family meals don’t have to be elaborate. Work salads and vegetables into meals. Focus on familiar favorites, like chili or frittatas.
- Be prepared. Keep ingredients for healthful meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Keep healthy ‘appetizers’ on hand. Stock the kitchen with fresh fruits, nuts and low-fat cheese — stuff the kids can snack on after school, instead of chips.
- Get the family involved. Let kids help prepare meals and 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.
- Avoid portion distortion. Keep serving sizes under control, whether you’re at home or eating out.
- Make it enjoyable. Leave the serious discussions for another time. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort and support.
- Keep the TV and computers off and enjoy each other’s company.
- Use this time as a great chance to talk with your kids and find out what is going on in their lives. Here is a list of potential conversation starters (from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University):
- What’s the best and worst thing that happened today?
- What’s the greatest invention of all time?
- If you were in charge of the music for our family vacation, which songs would you pick?
- Which TV family is the most fun to watch?
- If you could have a wild animal from anywhere in the world as a pet, what animal would you choose?
- Where would you go for a dream vacation?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- What is one thing you could absolutely not live without?
- If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
- If you could live in any time period, which one would it be?
- What is your favorite thing you learned today?
- If you had to eat just one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- What is one thing you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
- What book are you reading right now? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?
- If you could donate $1,000 to any charity, which charity would you select?
- If you could trade lives with anyone, who would it be?
Set a goal to eat together at least once a week at first and build up from there.