Think back for a moment to your normal, pre-pandemic life. How often were you too rushed to sit down to breakfast as a family? With the kids at school all day, lunchtime meals together were out, and if you're like most families, busy schedules would make gathering together for dinner a challenge as well.
But all that has changed over the last several months. One silver lining of months spent social distancing is that families are preparing more meals at home than ever before–some days even all three meals. There's no question that coming up with that many meals can be overwhelming, but the profound impacts of breaking bread together have been shown time and time again.
With National Family Meals Month upon us, learn more about the benefits of eating together as a family and check out these tips to make family mealtime fun and easy–during pandemic life and beyond.
There is a ton of evidence supporting the positive impact of family meals.
- Studies consistently reveal the significant, measurable, long-lasting benefits of family meals. Eating together as a family nourishes the mind, body, and spirit of all family members.
- Children are more likely to display positive social behaviors, such as sharing.
- Students see higher grades, improved self-esteem, and may become sexually active at older ages.
- The more meals shared with family each week, the less likely teenagers are to express signs of violence, depression, and suicide; are less likely to use or abuse drugs; and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
- Meals eaten at home are tied with decreased obesity rates for both children and adults.
- Meals eaten at home are associated with greater intake of fruits and vegetables.
The benefits of family meal time are clear, so how do you make family meals practical? Ditch the idea of perfection, and focus on what works for your unique situation. If the kids are old enough, ask them to brainstorm some favorite meals and think of one vegetable they could add–doesn’t even have to be part of the recipe! If they love cucumbers, put a bowl of cucumbers on the table for a vegetable option. Ask kids to help you find coupons and store specials in the weekly flier or online ads. Or, if you shop online, let the kids “help” you select items. Getting them involved will give them greater buy-in to eating the foods you’ve prepared!
Looking to get a little more organized?
Try a meal planning template, in our meal prepping blog. Pre-planning what to make for the week will help you create a grocery list, spend less time shopping, and save you money by reducing impulse purchases. Using coupons and store specials is also easier when you know what you’re looking for.
Meal planning also allows you to incorporate fun themes, like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Breakfast for Dinner night, and so on. Another way to please the whole family is to do “build your own meal” style bars.
- Breakfast. Choose oatmeal or yogurt, and lay out different stir in options such as fresh or dried fruit, spices, nuts or seeds, etc.
- Lunch. Salad bars or sandwich bars can include proteins, vegetables, dressings, cheese, and fruit for the side or even in the bowl!
- Dinner. Think baked potatoes with toppings, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cheese, chives, and so on, or pasta with vegetables, herbs, and proteins to toss in.
So this September, we encourage you to commit to more family meals. For more information on the Family Meals campaign, kid-friendly recipes, family meals research, and more, visit www.fmi.org.