Written together with Tulane Dietetic Interns Kelly Davis and Jaleh Kermani
Family meals are foundational to a healthy and happy nation. The benefits of family meals go beyond nutrition, studies show eating together can improve parent-child relationships as well as children’s emotional wellbeing1. Additionally, children who have four or more meals with their families score better grades at school1. It might seem hard to carve out time to eat as a family, but it is important to try and create sustainable habits or family traditions that work for your individual, unique family. Below we have detailed three ideas to help families spend more time at the table together!
Family meals for busy families can be a challenge during the week with sports and recreational activities. How about a Sunday Brunch? For example, Mediterranean Swiss Chard Frittata a savory brunch recipe or Peach Pie Protein Pancakes for something a little sweeter. Prepping meals such as casseroles ahead of time can also help make family mealtime easier to accomplish. For example, Veggie Mac & Cheese Casserole is a simple way to make a one-dish meal, One Skillet Pork Chops, Brussels Sprouts & Apples can be a dish prepared in under 30 minutes.
Potluck Family Meal
Another way to encourage family mealtimes is by creating a fun, new environment by inviting others to share a meal with family. Potlucks are a great way to share favorite dishes and quality time with loved ones. Families coming together to host or participate in potlucks teach children hospitality as well as creating fun mealtimes that they won’t want to miss! Additionally, sharing family meals with others can create a sense of community and trust. Sharing meals with others benefits not only one’s physical health but also one’s social and emotional wellness. Some easy recipe ideas for larger groups are the Vegetable Side Dishes to Feed a Crowd or a One Pot Enchilada Rice.
Chef for the Day
Involving children in the cooking and planning of family meals increases the chance they will eat the food and enjoy it. The more family meals enjoyed together, statistics show a 24% increase in healthy food consumption foods like fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich foods, and vitamins in children1. A meal like Make-Your-Own Pizza is a great meal to foster creativity in children. Decorating the pizzas with vegetables can encourage fussy eaters to try a new vegetable, children will be more likely to try something new if the child put it on the pizza their self. Make a face on the pizza using different vegetables, like a sliced bell pepper for the mouth, mushrooms for the eyes and cut eggplant for the nose. Children could also create shapes like a football, heart, square or star.
Family meals offer an important time to bond and enjoy good conversation. It can also be an environment where a child can become more accepting of foods they may never have had before. As previously mentioned, there is plenty of compelling evidence that shows why it’s important to make mealtimes a priority. The good habits of eating together and sharing meals will carry on with children into their adulthood. Start making connections and memories around the dinner table today by incorporating more shared meals, potlucks, and involving children in the culinary process!