Whether you are a single parent, a family without children, or a family of eight – family meals should be an important part of your day. Current research shows consuming meals as a family can lead to healthier weight status, better nutritional intake, and a reduction of risky behaviors. My family of two has a goal of consuming meals together 4-5 times a week, but it doesn’t always happen!
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Before you try to establish family meals, you must understand the barriers to family mealtime. Below you will find some of the most common reasons families do not have frequent meals together.
- Lack of time to plan for meals. Is your schedule so hectic that meal planning sounds too time consuming? Meal planning does not take much time. Your family does not require a gourmet meal each time you sit down together. Just take a few minutes out of your crazy schedule to plan a simple, yet nutritious meal that your entire family will enjoy. See previous blog on “family meal planning”.
- Media and technology overpower family meal times. In my family I have a constant battle between television programs and family dinner time. We have minimal time to watch our favorite television shows (if any at all), therefore the only time that seems feasible is during meal time. DO NOT DO IT! Turn the television off, put the computer away, and stop texting for 20-30 minutes to share a few minutes with your family. Set the DVR!
- Conflicting schedules. In this century many families struggle with spouses or partners that work late or have family members with meetings or extracurricular activities several nights a week. Conflicting schedules make it difficult to sit down all together as a family. On a weekly basis try to account for weekly activities and schedule a few meals in advance. Dinner does not have to be the meal that you have together – remember you always have breakfast and lunch.
- You have different food preferences. Frequently my husband and I can not agree on what to eat for our meals. The inability to agree on our meal choice leads us to grabbing different meals and ultimately eating individually. Try to plan the meal together and include all of the families preferences in some aspect of the meal (if possible). Meal time is an excellent opportunity for parents to serve as role models on how to consume healthier foods. If you expect your family to eat healthy, you must eat healthy yourself.
- You have never had family meals. Have all of the above barriers inhibited family meals within your family? Start small – do not expect family meals to happen overnight. Try to have family meals a few times a week and increase the frequency as the habit develops. Make family meals fun – not only is the table an ideal place for family meals, but change it up with a picnic or other fun activity.