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Making Mealtime Family Time

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Do family meals really make a difference?

Family meals are more than just food. Meals provide a regular opportunity for families to connect with each other and share not only food but also their lives. The conversation and laughter around the table builds relationships that strengthen families and make children stronger, smarter, and healthier. Family meals have been found to be associated with better grades, less risk-taking behaviors, more courteous children, positive emotional well-being, and healthier diets.

How does an “on-the-go” family achieve family meals?

With a little planning and some practice, it isn’t impossible to make family meals a reality. Focus on these three areas to help bring your family together at mealtime:

  • Plan Ahead. First, take a good look at your family’s schedule and figure out where and when meals will take place during the upcoming week. Then plan meals to make them work with your schedule. If some days you have more time in the morning, use your Crockpot for meals that are ready in no time at the end of the day. Another strategy is to prepare several meals on the weekend to freeze and then cook later that week or month.
  • Be Prepared. Always have stock items on hand for several menus your family likes that can be prepared quickly. Pasta dishes with packaged salads and bread are a good example. Your grocery store has many easy-to-prepare dishes that emphasize lean meats and vegetables. Healthy meals do not have to be made from scratch. Stock up on ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables so that even a sandwich and a glass of milk becomes a well-rounded meal. At-home meals are also more manageable when you enlist the help of your entire family.
  • Choose Healthy When Eating Out. Eating out can be healthy when you take advantage of options like grilled meats, side salads, fruit cups, and milk. As often as possible, avoid the temptation to “drive-thru” and eat in the car. Instead, go inside the restaurant and enjoy eating with your family. Even on-the-go families need to stop briefly to stay connected. Make sure to arrange a few meals each week that can be eaten with everyone in the family together.

Sharing good food and good conversation strengthens families in many ways. To learn more about the benefits of family meals visit Purdue’s Center for Families web site.

 



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About the Author

Barbara is a nutrition educator specializing in helping children and families build healthy relationships with food and each other. She is the director of the Center for Families at Purdue University and lecturer in the Department of Nutrition Science. She has over 20 years of experience in nutrition education, and consults, writes, and speaks to nutritionists and educators across the country about nutrition education.


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