It can be puzzling to change the way our families eat. Between soccer games, ballet classes, work, appointments, homework assignments and many other responsibilities, parents and children don’t always have the time to sit down and share a meal together. If you live alone, finding someone to share a meal is not always easy, but the effort is well worth it. Studies have shown time and again that eating together has multiple benefits for everyone involved, not only for nutritional purposes but in many other aspects as well.
The quality of the food we eat, regular physical activity, love and attention are all essential for meeting the needs of our minds and bodies. The importance of the family meal has been shown mainly in studies from the University of Minnesota, Harvard and Rutgers that have looked at family eating habits of nearly 40,000 middle-school students and teenagers. The research has shown that those who regularly have meals with their parents eat more fruits, vegetables and calcium-rich foods, ingest more vitamins and nutrients, and consume less junk food. Some of the research has shown that kids who regularly sit down to a family meal are at lower risk for behaviors like smoking and drug and alcohol use.
Having your family helping planning and prepping dinner helps them to be
responsible for their health. Teaching them what nutrient dense food is, even for the
youngest of children, is easy to understand. The idea is to create a balanced meal
with protein, healthy fats and wholesome carbohydrates keeping in mind your family’s taste.
If your schedule and extracurricular activities are preventing you from eating proper meal, ask grandparents or other elders to get involved. They often have the time and skills and are only too happy to share.
Keep a family food diary for a week, and track what your family is eating, and how much. Maybe you will need to rebalance snacks and meals? Maybe you need to add more vegetables and fruits?
Create a happy, relaxed, eating atmosphere by setting a nice table with tablecloth, candle, flowers and get the kids to help decorate it.
Always keep some fresh fruits and vegetables to make a smoothie with Apple Boost on those nights when dinner is late and children are hungry.
Being creative, planning and prepping ahead are helpful solutions. Before going shopping, plan your meals for the week with you children. List out four or five items from each category – protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, snacks- and plan the meals accordingly.
If you live alone, schedule lunches and dinners with family and friends on a rotating basis. Joining a class or volunteering can lead to new friendship and dining friends.