Making family meals a priority, and a possibility, again

In Part 1 of Family Dinner (Are family meals worth it?) we learned about different views to family meals.  For the most part we have seen that family meals are still good thing to strive for.  Many of us still have a hard time making it a routine part of the day or week.  Sometimes, it doesn’t even seem like a possibility! To help parents out, here is a list of things to help make family meals a possibility again.   

5 Ways to Bring Back Family Meals

1) Change your mentality about family meals: For some, dinner can be extremely stressful.  If this happens to you, stop and look around. Think to yourself, “What would make family meals good for MY family?”  For many families, this is the ONLY time to be able to talk as a family (2).  If you think negatively about family dinner, chances are that’s exactly how it will turn out. Keep the dinner table a positive place.  If we keep a positive mindset, problems can become opportunities.

2) Schedule it: Set a specific time for your family meal.  For some families work schedules make dinner improbable.  Is it possible to have family breakfast instead of dinner? Or try to go for as many members at the table as you can over the course of two meals.  Set a time, and stick to it, even if it changes daily. It is never too late to start. Keep trying if you miss a few nights. The best part is, humans need to eat food everyday so you can try again every day.  

3) Share Responsibilities:  There are people that say family dinners can be bad for individuals, and they are right.  It can be a very negative experience for mom (4) or dad if she or he is doing all the work.  The solution is to have the family help. A study found that when parents and children were responsive to one another, meals were better and children learned healthy behaviors more than families that didn’t have family meals (5) (6).  What better way for children to learn healthy eating habits than them helping make dinner?  They can see what it takes to feed the family and feel the satisfaction that come from it as well.

5) Meal plan: Picky eaters? Dietary restrictions? Plan for it.  Find favorite family recipes. Find some time saving, or easy meals, like crockpot recipes. It’s much easier to have dinner when you already know what you’re making and have all the ingredients.

4) Remove Distractions: Leave phones, games, and toys off the table.  If you have a television in the kitchen, try a few nights with it off and see if your family conversations improve.  It may take a few nights to adjust. Do what is best for your family.

What does your table look like?

My table often looks like a black hole for random objects, but sometimes it looks like a dinner table.  I have trouble getting us to eat at the table, but my family likes it when we do. These tips are helping me take back my table, and I hope they can help your family too.  


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1) Yi, S., Poudel, K. C., Yasuoka, J., Palmer, P. H., Yi, S., & Jimba, M. (2010). Role of risk and protective factors in risky sexual behavior among high school students in Cambodia. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 477-484.

2) Diamond, A. (2010). Family meals are good for hearts and waistlines. Nursing Standard, 24(24), 28.

3) Part D. Chapter 3: Individual diet and physical activity behavior change: Family shared meals. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

4) Kinser, A. E. (2017). Fixing Food to Fix Families: Feeding Risk Discourse and the Family Meal. Women’s Studies In Communication, 40(1), 29-47. doi:10.1080/07491409.2016.1207001

5) Santarossa, S., Ciccone, J., & Woodruff, S. J. (2015). An evaluation of the Kinect-Ed presentation, a motivating nutrition and cooking intervention for young adolescents in grades 6-8. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, 40(9), 945-950. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015-0110

6)  Litterbach, E. V., Campbell, K. J., & Spence, A. C. (2017). Family meals with young children: an online study of family mealtime characteristics, among Australian families with children aged six months to six years. BMC Public Health, 17(1), 1-9. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3960-6

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