Lee Ann Fields, Judd, Cathy S.
Next month is National Family Meals month organized by the Food Marketing Institute. Check out https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month for more information on making memories around the family table, recipes, and fast meal tips.
What a great time to remind us about the benefits of eating family meals together. School is back in full swing. Life will be more scheduled less relaxed than summer time. There will be school activities, dance classes, scheduled sports activities, many appointments, and don’t forget HOMEWORK! I remember those days and they were hectic! Just a side bar here, these years go fast! Make memories!
Meal time with the family is not just a time to eat but times to make memories, connect with each other, and nourish your bodies. The best family memories frequently are of the times spent around the dinner table.
Research shows that family meal time benefits the whole family. Some of the benefits include:
Meals are more likely to be more nutritious. You have more control when you cook meals at home so you can reduce the fat, sodium, and add more fiber, therefore making nutritious meals.
Eat Healthy Foods. You know the saying “if you build it, they will come”? Well, if you serve it, they will eat it. Children who eat regularly with their family tends to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. You say you have a picky eater? It takes about ten times introducing a new food to a child before they will taste it. It takes time; never force a child to eat. This may cause lasting effects on a child, like obesity and eating disorders.
Parents that model healthy eating habits and have a good attitude about trying new foods will affect their children’s behavior toward food.
Children learn cooking skills and appreciation for different kinds of food. Children like to help in the kitchen especially when they are young. Allowing them to help with the preparation may encourage them to eat what they prepared. I am pleasantly surprised by our school garden children, how they eat what they grow, kale, Swiss chard, collards, turnips and many of them have never eaten these foods before!
Family members have a chance to reconnect. Sitting around the family table after a long day gives family members an opportunity to find out about each family members’ day. As children get older, schedules get busier and it gets harder for reconnection! While sitting around the table, engage everyone in pleasant conversation. Ask questions that will bring conversation. What is your favorite movie? If you had $1,000 what would you do with it? These questions have no right or wrong answers and they get you to know your families better.
Parents have a great opportunity to teach children table manners. This will come in handy one day when they participate in important socials or have a luncheon job interview. Just this week one of my daughters mentioned she was glad I had her attend our 4-H Etiquette Classes. At the time she wasn’t crazy about attending these classes! I did try to have them practice table manners around the family meal too.
Eating together can be a real challenge! If you are finding time to share meals together, here are a few tips that may help:
Use a calendar to write down after-school activities and work schedules. Plan family mealtimes when everyone can be together. You may want to set a goal of three meals a week. Remember this can be breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner mealtimes together.
Get creative about where you eat together. If there is an afterschool activity the whole family is involved in, pack a picnic dinner or tailgate at the event. This does take a little planning, an ice chest, drinks, and the food. Let your kids help pack the food and go!
Keep it simple. Sunday meals are a bit hectic at our home. I can’t seem to cook like my friends and family who have the Sunday meal prepared the minute they walk in the door after church. I am always worried is the food getting too dry? Is the food burning? Is the house on fire? I am cooking when I walk in the door! To make Sunday meals more enjoyable and have time to visit with family, keep it simple. Go for grilled foods, or use the slow cooker. Purchase a rotisserie chicken, serve with vegetables, and add a few family favorites. It does take some planning. I am doing that now for next our Sunday meal!
Share responsibilities. Divide the responsibilities of shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning up. Even small children can help. If you don’t involve them now, when they are older they may expect you to continue doing it all because they don’t know how to! When everyone shares the duties it gives them sense of belonging to a family.