When I was a kid a million years ago, my family had dinners together. Most meal times were good. I was where I was supposed to be and felt safe, important, and loved. Other meals were not so great. I specifically remember being forced to eat at least one lima bean for which much drama was executed on my part. These days, I love being able to eat dinner with my daughter. When we eat together, we’re happier and healthier, especially if we have fun things to laugh about while we eat.
The payoff comes in benefits for both of us. A variety of research has shown that when we eat meals together as a family we feel closer and we eat more nutritiously. When families have meals together, it gives them the chance to catch up on what is happening in their day. There is also the chance to learn table manners, and some basic cooking skills.
For a quality meal time experience, let every member of the family help make some part of the meal – which can help develop food preparation skills – or try taking turns cooking and cleaning. Make new rituals and share traditions so everyone knows they belong to a special group. Teach youth about their heritage by serving and talking about a favorite family recipe. Offer healthy food choices (they’ll be more willing to choose these foods as they grow). And be sure to have light, easy conversations. Save difficult conversations for another time.
To help you kick start your family meal together this year, commit to “Dining In” on Family & Consumer Sciences Day, December 3, 2015. http://www.aafcs.org/FCSday/. Then add on another family meal, then another, until quality meal times become a healthy part of your family.