Nothing brings us together like eating together. If you think back on your childhood, what was your favorite memory of family mealtime? Mine would have to be going to grandma's house for homemade chili and cinnamon rolls (a Nebraska classic, for those who didn't know). My tasks were to set the table and clear the plates after, and I took pride in these responsibilities. My grandmother made me feel helpful and needed. Having a "job" at grandma's house gave me the buy-in I needed to look forward to these mealtimes. In this post, I want to look at the research behind benefits of family mealtimes, the barriers that exist, and the strategies for making this more doable for you and your family.
Children are incredibly curious and creative beings. Breaking bread as a family can have more health and social benefits than you may have realized. Diet quality, academic performance, and healthier body weight are shown to improve for people of all ages when they share a meal.
- Diet quality - Research shows families participating in three or more meals together are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, multivitamins, and breakfast. Those same families were less likely to consume soda, fast food, fried food, and candy.
- Greater academic performance - Table conversation gives children an open platform to discuss their thoughts and opinions, helping them gain confidence for speaking up in class. This also gives parents the opportunity to ask about grades, deadlines, test days, and ways they can get involved in their child's education.
- Healthier body weight - As children grow up around social media and diet talk, there will likely be confusion in their own minds whether they know how to nourish themselves or not. Eating as a family gives them good role models for great food choices. There are not "good" or "bad" food choices, however, you can display the 5 food groups daily, while indulging in cakes and ice creams on occasion. Teens will be less likely to have disorder eating as they grow up.
Life moves fast. From running one child to soccer practice, dropping the next off at ballet and band practice, lastly [insert all you still need to accomplish], when will you have time to decide what to eat, when to buy it, and how to prepare it? This all seems daunting if you're not accustomed. Not to mention, when you finally sit the kids down for mealtime, what do you do about the restless child who keeps getting up to use the bathroom or starts playing with toys? The husband/wife who seems to have eyes glued to their cell phone/the TV? What about the picky eater who won't touch any foods unless they are chicken nuggets and macaroni? There are many barriers to family mealtimes. You are not alone. For this reason, I want to give you some stellar strategies for creating a fun and exciting place for your family to dine together.
Planning ahead of time, setting boundaries during meal times, and staying intentional while preparing and eating food, will change your family's mindset in regards to mealtime. Your family will beg for more time together!
Meal planning - Did you know 63% of Americans decide what to eat less than an hour before mealtime? To be real, one year ago I was absolutely a part of this statistic! However, when I switched to meal planning on Saturdays and grocery shopping on Sundays, I removed a good deal of stress from my life! I would 100% recommend either writing down your meal plan or downloading an app on your phone. Get your entire family involved in the planning. Assign tasks. If they help, they will be more likely to buy-in to the idea of family meals. Kids love structure and as I shared about my childhood, having a task that was mine, made me excited for our gatherings.
Boundaries - Now what do we do about electronics during the meal? Set boundaries and put all phones in a shoe box, on silent, and TV stays off. I've set the rule in my household that Sundays are a no electronic day and consist of a candlelit dinner and board games.
Intentional time - Assign a task for your little sous chefs. Plastic knifes and patience go a long way in the kitchen with littles. Be intentional about asking your children how they would like to help. Allow them to explore their creativity. During dinnertime, it's fun to serve the foods you created family style. Let your family members control and regulate their appetite by placing the portions they want on their own plates. Play games at the table. Have "make-your-own pizzas" or Taco Tuesdays. You'll be surprised someday when you ask your kids what their favorite mealtime memory was. Start a new tradition this week.
WHAT LEMOND NUTRITION CAN DO FOR YOU
Here at Lemond Nutrition, we understand busy people with busy lives. That is why we are here to do the hard work for you! Our adult and family nutrition guidance and support empowers you to live out the right way to eat for general health or for a special health condition. We look in your pantry to make suggestions that are destined for success. We take you on a grocery store tour tearing apart all the misinformation you have heard. We give you practical tools to read nutrition labels and unveil an abundance of new, mouth-watering products you never knew were right there on the store shelves. Receive constant support and achieve your goal of eating as a family and living healthy. Take your first step toward making healthy eating a family thing. 972-422-9180
My sister Hannah was the inspiration for this blog. She is a mom to two beautiful girls who are in her kitchen helping her make homemade tortillas, bread, cakes, etc.