It’s harder than ever these days to find the time to sit down to a family meal. Between work, hobbies and social engagements, there never seems to be the time. However, it’s been proven that families who eat their meals together tend to eat healthier in general, and children who come from families that eat meals together may be less likely to grow up with depression, or substance abuse problems. It’s even been shown to reduce the likelihood of eating disorders.
Since there are so many benefits to eating a family meal together every day, it makes sense to try and integrate it into your routine, and here are a few tips to make that easier:
Choose a meal that suits you. If none of you are free around dinner time, then make breakfast your family meal time, or lunch. What’s important is that you spend time together – not what time of day you do it.
If your child is starving by late afternoon, but your family dinner time isn’t till later, rather offer your child a snack earlier, to tide him or her over.
Don’t serve two meals at two different times. Serve everyone’s meal at the same time.
Stock up on store cupboard basics and groceries, and plan quick, easy and nutritious meals in advance, to take a little of the stress out of dinnertime.
Planning ahead also means that you can prepare some of the ingredients you will use later earlier in the day, and that you can shop for any ingredients you may not have.
Use quick cooking methods, like microwaving, wherever possible, or if you have a slow cooker, get it started early in the day, so it’s ready for dinner time.
Buying convenience foods, like prepared vegetables, or even take aways, can help to make your family meal less stressful, and a better bonding and communication experience for everyone.
If you like to cook, plan to make bigger batches of your favourite meals, and then freeze them, ready for the times that you don’t have the energy or time to prepare a meal.
Have some fun with meals by planning a picnic, or designating a particular night family pizza night, or family take aways night.
Switch off the television. You don’t need it as background noise, and it will just distract you from each other.
Remember that the meal doesn’t have to be fancy to be healthy and fun. Try serving breakfast foods at dinner time, or assembling ingredients and letting everyone build their own sandwiches. Even waffles or pancakes can be used as a quick dinner idea.
While what you serve is important, remember that the main idea behind a family meal time is that you all talk, share news and spend time enjoying each other’s company.