The family that eats together, stays together.
Okay, so maybe that’s a gross oversimplification. However, studies have shown that families who make a point to have regular family meals enjoy some of the following benefits:
- Better academic performance
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater sense of resilience
- Lower risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression
- Lower rates of eating disorders and obesity
Sign me up! Who wouldn’t to see that in their family?
Family meals provide time to bond after a busy day of work, school, activities, homework, and more. We can reconnect, share stories from our day, laugh, and just be together.
I can hear you groaning now. I know you’re busy. It seems impossible to find time for regular family meals. Between meetings, soccer practice, swim meets, and Cub Scouts, how can you even prepare a healthy meal, let alone gather together for one?
It’s true– you do have to be intentional. However, researchers suggest families who eat together five times a week reap the most benefits, but stress there is no magic number. Anything helps.
Here are a few ways you can bring your family together for meals more often:
Simplify your routine. Say no to too many activities. Sure, it’s cool to be over-scheduled. We love to brag about how busy we are. In the long run, though, we are just hurting ourselves. I sometimes feel like an outsider because we choose not to play the “crazy busy” game. My boys are in Scouts, all the kids play an instrument, two of my three kids play a sport, and we have a church activity night once a week. Despite all that, we are probably one of the least busy families I know. And yes, we eat dinner together almost every night.
2. Prepare ahead of time
If you know that putting a healthy meal on the table is a challenge, then use weekends or nights to prepare some meals ahead of time. We also have some great posts here on CRMB with some easy weeknight meals (here and here) , 4 ingredient dinners, and easy Sheet Pan Meals.
3. Keep essentials on hand
We’ve all stared at an empty fridge or cabinet, wondering how we’re going to pull together tonight’s dinner. It’s easier to get a quick meal on the table if you are prepared with the necessary ingredients. Keep pasta and jarred spaghetti sauce, seasoning packets, canned soups, sliced meats and cheeses for sandwiches, and other pantry essentials on hand at all times. I always have a frozen pizza in my freezer because….
4. Anything counts!
Sure, we’d all love to have balanced, healthy meals all the time, but anything counts! If you can only do it on Sunday nights, then make that meal a priority! Or, perhaps you can replace family dinners with family breakfast! The key is to start somewhere, and then see how you can increase your time together.
5. Get everyone involved in meal prep
Moms, it’s time to give up control of the kitchen. Let your kids help slice or peel veggies. Your husband can prepare part of the meal. Your teenager can bake some biscuits. There are many ways to get the whole family involved.
This goes for cleanup too. We have a rotating list of “dinner chores” that are done most nights. One child sets the table, another clears it and cleans it, and the third one rinses the dishes and loads the dishwasher. My husband and I clean the counters and sweep the floor. Of course you’ll need to make this age appropriate and help when needed, but it’s taken a huge load off my shoulders to get the kids involved with cleaning. Plus, it goes so much faster when everyone helps!
6. Take it to the Next Level
Consider making the dinner table a No Cell Phone zone. Actually talk to each other. Here’s a great resource for questions to ask each other. We use this time to check in with our kids about their day, plan upcoming family trips, get gift ideas for birthdays and Christmas, discuss the needs of our extended family members, and more. As a Christian family, we finish our meal by reading our scriptures together as often as we can. If you’ve already got the “eating together” part down, what can you do to elevate your family meals together?
October is National Eat Together, Eat Better Month.
I encourage you to evaluate your own families and make some adjustments in your life so you can eat together more often, and make your family meals more meaningful.
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