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Family Mealtime is Important

Submitted by on September 19, 2017 – 12:24 pmNo Comment

family meal time - north texas kids magazine

How to Get Your Family Back to the Dinner Table for Family Mealtime

It may seem simple, but eating together as a family has been proven to be very beneficial. Studies have found the frequency of family meals to be associated with greater intakes of fruits and vegetables, milk, less fried foods and soft drinks, and higher intakes of several nutrients, including calcium, iron, vitamins, fiber, and less saturated and trans fat intakes.

In addition to the nutritional advantages, family mealtime has been shown to provide opportunities for children to learn vocabulary-building words that help them read well and have been associated with improved school performance. Family mealtime provides an opportunity for families to come together as a group and develop a sense of belonging. Some research even suggests families that eat together have children who experience fewer behavioral problems and reduce the risk that a teen will smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs.

Soccer practice, dance lessons and dual-income homes take a toll on family mealtime. Not to mention that as children age they become more independent, can remove themselves from the family either by foot, bike or car, and can often afford to buy their own food. However, the importance of quality time together far outweighs the obstacles. Make this your year – and put in place a few extra efforts to establish family mealtimes so that you can bask in the joy of dining together.

Tips on Encouraging Family Mealtime

  • Be Creative and Flexible. Family meals can be shared at home, at a restaurant, picnic-style in a park, or near the playing field. Decide when most family members are available for a meal. Explore ways that schedules can be adjusted. If it is difficult to get everyone together for dinner, try breakfast. But aim for designating one night a week as family dinner night.
  • Divide and Conquer. Encourage all family members to consider mealtime as a team effort – from preparation through clean up. Preparing and cooking food together can be fun and creative. Children learn more by doing than by watching. Helping to set the table, folding napkins, plating the salad, or doing clean-up chores gives them a sense of being needed in the family as well.
  • Make Mealtime Fun. Eating flavorful, healthful food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially when sharing with family and friends. Keep conversation light and pleasant. Try to avoid power struggles. Encourage all family members to share ideas and daily news. Practice listening attentively to each other. Focus on the positive; save the lectures and “you should have” discussions for another time.
  • Keep Meals Simple and Easy. Save the elaborate menus for when you have time to prepare and enjoy them. Focus on the shared experience; those memories will stay with family members for a lifetime. Don’t let family mealtime become lost in the hustle of everyday life.
  • Eliminate Interruptions and Distractions. Turn off the television and radio. Let the answering machine pick up phone calls. Shared positive meals are a time to take a deep breath, enjoy each other’s company, strengthen relationships, and savor good food together.
  • Eat Meals Slowly. Try these tips to slow down: chew food thoroughly, put your fork down between bites, eat your meal in courses like a restaurant. Try to pay attention to your hunger and fullness during the meal. It takes a minimum of 20-30 minutes for your appetite to register after eating. If you eat too quickly, you can easily eat too much and take in too many calories.

Laurie Barenblat is a healthy lifestyle coach. Visit her website at http://lauriebarenblat.sharepoint.com.

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