Eat Better, Eat Together

Making Mealtime Family Time

Family eating meal together. Eat Better. Eat Together.

When was the last time you sat down to eat together with your family at home? October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month. It’s a great time to start enjoying meals together if you’re not already. Eating together as a family allows children and adults to focus on the task at hand…EATING!

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that children of families who regularly eat together:

  • are more likely to have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables and have a healthy weight, and
  • are less likely to have behavior problems or use drugs, cigarettes or alcohol when they get older.

Beyond health and nutrition, family meals provide a valuable opportunity for children and parents to reconnect.

Top 10 Tips

Check out my Top 10 Tips for making mealtime family time!

Take time to meal plan!

The first step to enjoying a meal at home is knowing what to prepare. If you have a plan of attack, then you’re more likely to prepare a meal at home. Check out these tips for meal planning.

Invite your children help in the kitchen.

Involving kids in the kitchen gives them confidence and provides them with a life-long skill. In addition, children are more likely to consume what they have a role in preparing. Check out these tips for getting kids in the kitchen.

Move mealtime to the table!

Enjoying your meal at the table brings the focus back to the food and the people sitting with you.

Put away the electronics!

Sit down and enjoy your meal as well as each other’s company. Setting aside your phone and turning off the television allows you to focus all of your attention on each other. It can lead to great dinner conversation, which opens the lines of communication within your family.

Ask intentional questions.

Speaking of conversation, ask intentional questions that move beyond “How was your day?” Consider asking questions like, “How did you show kindness to someone today?” “What made you happy today?” “What made you sad today?” “What’s your favorite activity we do as a family?”

Serve as a positive role model.

Eating together as a family allows you to model proper table manners. Let your child(ren) see you eating a balanced diet. Include foods from all five food groups. Trying new foods together as a family can make it less intimidating for children.

Teach about portion control and healthy choices.

Meal time is a great time to teach children about portion control and making healthy choices. Allow children to self-serve their own portions Encourage them to take a single serving of every food. If they are still hungry, they can go back for more.

Have realistic meal expectations.

Don’t expect children to sit at the dinner table for excessive lengths of time. Stay positive, which will make mealtime more enjoyable for everyone.

Aim for a few nights a week.

Don’t worry if your family can’t eat together every day. If weeknight meals won’t work for your family, then try eating together as a family on the weekends!

Make it a habit!

If your family isn’t currently eating together, then aim to eat one meal together a week. Schedule it on the calendar. Make sure each family member knows that it’s a priority. Once you’ve consistently met that goal, considering trying to increase the number of meals you eat together to 2 or 3 times per week.

Eating together as a family teaches children that taking the time and effort to eat together as a family is important.

Will you make eating together a priority?

Resources: https://communityenvironment.unl.edu/october-national-eat-better-eat-together-month and https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/family-meals–small-investment–big-payoff.

Jill Ladd MPH, RD, LD

— Contributed by Jill Ladd, MPH, RD, LD