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What Ever Happend to Family Dinners? - Dietetic Directions - Dietitian and Nutritionist in Kitchener/Waterloo
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What Ever Happend to Family Dinners?

What Ever Happend to Family Dinners?

Remember when we used to sit down as a family for meals? We would candidly talk about our day and enjoy each others’ company? Whatever happened to those days?  It seems that today with our “jam-packed” schedules many of us are now unable to find the time to enjoy a meal together.  It has been reported by the National Family Mealtime Survey that 20% of families eat together one or fewer times per week AND of those who did eat together, 75% ate while watching TV!  Are you part of this startling statistic?  It’s sad to think that family dinners, which were once common, are becoming scarce.  Have you taken the steps necessary to make family dinners appear more frequently in your household?  First, let’s take some time to ponder the numerous benefits of family meals.  We might just decide to revolutionize this progressing trend before the family dinner becomes extinct.

Why we Should Bring Back Family Dinners

Research supports children and teens reap numerous benefits from family meals:
• Decreased incidence of obesity
• Less likely to engage in disordered eating behavior
• Improved child communication & social skills
• Improved nutritional quality of diets (more fruits, veggies, grains and diary)
• Allows for family bonding
• Improved self-esteem (feelings of being loved, security, belonging)
• Role Model Opportunity: Parents can display the importance of eating balanced meals and table manners/meal etiquette
• Chance to encourage children to try new foods (but never coerce or pressure)
• Foster self-sufficiency so children develop skills for meal planning and preparation. (Tip:delegate age-appropriate tasks such as meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and serving foods)
• Better behaved: Lower incidence of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use
• Improved grades particularly among 11 to 18 year olds

Some Tips for Help You Bring Back Family Dinners

1. Prioritize:

We all know that cooking and eating dinner together EVERY MEAL is somewhat impossible, that’s why it is important to be flexible. If there’s no time for the wholesome home cooked meal, try picking up a salad, a roast chicken and a quinoa salad from the nearest grocery store.  If soccer practice and dance lessons get in the way of sitting down together, try having breakfast together instead.  Or why not come home and enjoy fresh local berries and a small scoop of ice cream together?  Bottom line is with busy schedules we need to still make family meals a PRIORITY in order to reap the numerous benefits. You might need to simply try scheduling “pre-determined” days for family meals.

2. Get everyone involved!

After a long day of work, parents may not feel up to cooking a meal. Getting the whole family involved not only reduces the pressure on parents, but gives families that little extra time together. Weekend meal planning and preparation (ie. freezing prepared foods) is also an option for a quick dinner that only requires heating in the oven and tossing some fresh veggies and a glass of milk on the side.

3. Ditch the electronics

It may seem impossible to leave cell phones unattended and to turn off that TV – but these small sacrifices will reap large benefits. Electronics distract individuals from the meal and socializing thus disabling the connectedness family dinners are supposed to foster!

4. *~Be Creative~*

Make dinners fun! Chicken and potatoes can get boring so spice things up with theme nights that introduce foods from around the world and break the “usual routine”. In my family, “Mexican Fiesta Night” was a huge hit complete with homemade chunky guacamole, Tostitos, sizzling chicken fajitas and a side vinaigrette salad. You can even try changing up the location as well; weather permitting try an outdoor BBQ, or pack up a picnic and head to the park!

Bottom Line:

Family meals are worthy of holding onto so that they don’t become something of the past. Make a goal and prioritize the regular family meals. Remember to enjoy the conversation, enjoy the bonding and of course enjoy the food.