WHY FAMILY MEALS ARE IMPORTANT
We all lead busy lives. Often times, our individual interests, goals, passions, and responsibilities pull us away from the people we care about. Therefore, it is essential that we all to take the time to slow down occasionally and re-engage with loved ones. Dinnertime provides a wonderful opportunity to take a break from the rest of the world, take an interest in your family, laugh, recharge, and, through storytelling and sharing, form a sense of your family identity.
Family dinners are incredibly beneficial. Sharing a meal brings family together, gives each person an opportunity to share what happened during their day, the chance to listen to one another, celebrate successes, and offer comfort for difficulties. This engagement can play a huge role in families creating a strong bond and support system. Family meals also help children to develop a sense of confidence, security, and a feeling of place and belonging. Some studies have even shown that family meals promote brain functionality that results in better performance at school; for example, dinner conversation acts as a better vocabulary-booster than reading for young children.
Family meals don’t need to be a stressful affair. The meal can be simple. Many people prepare a week’s worth of meals over the weekend and then freeze or store them so they can be reheated when they’re needed throughout the week. There are thousands of recipes that can be prepared and then served in this fashion. In order to allow your children and young adolescents to reap the benefits that family meals offer of a reduced risk of eating disorder and obesity, it is important to serve wholesome meals. Just remember that it may take a child multiple (sometimes up to 10-15) exposures to a new flavor – like broccoli – before they develop a taste for it, so be patient. Here are some healthy ideas:
- Spaghetti Sauce (Made with Fresh Tomatoes): Make a large batch and freeze what you don’t need to use for future meals, serve with a salad. Go easy on the salt and try using whole-wheat noodles. This tomato sauce is a great way to encourage kids to eat their veggies.
- Grilled Salmon: Salmon (and other fish) doesn’t take long to cook, making it a great option for a quick and healthy dinner. It can be served on top of a salad, or beside grilled or sautéed vegetables. If you or your children aren’t fish fans you could try a White Fish, it lacks the “fishy” flavor that so many people abhor. Try to buy sustainably harvested wild caught fish if you can, it’s better for you and the environment.
- Slow-Cooker Beef Stew: Slow-Cookers (or Crock Pots) are the perfect solution for busy lives. This recipe can be prepped the night before so, as long you remember to turn the pot on in the morning, you can come home to a fully cooked meal.
Family dinners are an easy thing to incorporate into your family routine- everyone has to eat, so why not eat together? There is no exact formula for how many meals you must eat to get the benefits mentioned above, but safeguarding even just one meal a week can have a tremendous impact. In my house, Sunday night was family dinner night. It didn’t conflict with sports practices or meetings and gave us a chance to reflect on the past week and prepare and plan for what was in store during the next.
I challenge you to take the time this week to intently focus your attention on your people, instead of work or daily challenges. I think you will find, as my family did, that it will help bond your family into an ever more closely knit unit.