Today we are learning about the important of nutrition and family meal time. Since I grew up in a free-for-all dinner environment, I thought I’d turn this subject over to my wife, Lauren, who is the expert in our house. Bon Appetit!
Dinner time ruined my childhood. Each night I tried to watch The Simpsons. Each night as the theme song opened up and Bart skated across the screen, my dad came to get me for dinner. Then for dinner, he had the nerve to serve something like salmon, roasted potatoes and salad. SALAD! All I wanted were chicken nuggets to eat in front of the TV like most my friends. I just knew I was missing the best Simpsons episode each night.
Well, as you might imagine, I am very grateful that my parents took the time to make dinner for our family. I know first-hand how important this habit can be even if it seems impossible some nights. Time is a precious resource these days so let’s remind ourselves exactly why we brave the grocery stores and google recipes on the way home from work on busy weekday nights.
1. Model Healthy Habits
Your kids are watching you. They can pick up on your attitudes, likes (or dislikes), and eating patterns. For this reason, it’s very important you make sure you model what you want them to emulate. It isn’t just at the table either, it’s all day. Grab a nutritious breakfast along with that coffee. When it is time to sit down together, fill your plate with a rainbow of colors focusing on vegetables. Also, don’t exclude whole food groups unnecessarily (such as carbohydrates or fats). Kids might pick up on ‘diet’ behaviors on top of the desired health promoting habits.
2. Healthy Kids
If you want your family to eat more vegetables, you have to make them available. Typically meals eaten at home are more nutritious than meals in a restaurant. Make sure to have lots of health promoting options available that make for a balanced plate. Healthy meals equals healthy kids. Load up on vegetables, whole grains and a lean protein (KISS! Keep It Super Simple).
3. Family Involvement
This is a great time for both teaching and getting extra help in the kitchen. Find age appropriate cooking tasks to get your family involved in the process. Kids love adding spices, mixing, and helping you to choose the menu. Chances are that they will enjoy eating what is on the table if they are involved too.
4. Real Connection
Food is such a large part of family culture. It can be a wonderful opportunity to create warm memories for your children. Often we are on the go and eat quickly but it is very important to show mealtime respect when you can. Try using this time to honor yourself and your family by slowing down and connecting with each other (while disconnecting with work and school). Teach your children the importance of this time by making it a priority.
5. Better Grades
A study by Columbia University found that children that ate dinner at home less than three times per week made significantly more C’s on their report cards than children that ate at home more often. When students had dinner five times a week at home, they were 40% more likely to make A’s and B’s! They also found these kids that ate with their families had better vocabularies than their counterparts due to their exposure to adult conversation.
So there you have it, 5 very good reasons to make mealtime a habit in your family. Start with small changes like removing electronics from the table or eating together just once a week. The value of this family ritual cannot be overstated. Meal times are not only about the food you serve but the time spent together. Bon appétit!
Lauren Creasy is a Registered Dietitian at Whole Foods Market Global. She believes health starts in the kitchen and is passionate about helping people find their own healthy and sustainable relationship with food. She is available to help families interested in nutrition consulting and meal planning.