When counseling clients, I recommend interventions that have multiple benefits. This is fairly easy to do with food. Eat an extra cup of vegetables and you are enriching your food intake with extra antioxidants, reducing inflammation and possibly lowering calorie intake.
And when it comes to multiple benefits, not much can beat eating meals as a family. September is National Family Meals Month. There is a reason we use this time to remind people of why family meals matter.
- Children who eat dinner with their parents have better grades.
- Three meals a week together showed a 24 percent increase in nutritious foods.
- The more families share meals the less likely their kids are to drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs.
- Frequent family meals increase self-esteem, a sense of well-being and positive social behaviors
The following are the most frequently cited barriers to family meals, reported in the 2018 Food Marketing Institute US Grocery Shoppers trends survey, followed by solutions:
- 49 percent say differing schedules interfere with family meals.
It doesn’t have to be dinner. Breakfast can be a family meal although it is usually shorter. Talk about the day’s activities and you are connecting. Or use the weekend to have an extended brunch. And certainly the weekend provides an opportunity for a family dinner. A great time to have the kids in the kitchen for cooking up some fun.
- 19 percent say they don’t have time to prepare meal.
Keep the meal simple. Salad mix in a bag, frozen vegetables and a rotisserie chicken is a family meal that can be prepared in less than five minutes. Plan out your potential family meals before shopping. And if you get takeout food bring it home and eat it together around the table. That is still a family meal.
- 18 percent report that distractions, such as television, social media or homework get in the way.
Family meal is a time to talk. Turn off the electronics and turn on the conversation.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.