Harness the Power of Family Meals

September 12th, 2018

by Karen Buch RDN, LDN

Juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often come at the expense of family mealtime at home. In fact, 63 percent of Americans decide what to eat less than an hour before eating. It’s easy to opt for take-out or fast food when schedules get hectic. But there’s science-based evidence to support making the effort to eat more family meals instead.

Why Make Time for Family Meals?

Research demonstrates positive outcomes related to family meals when children and parents gather around the dinner table and engage with each other in conversation.

  • Studies show that eating home-cooked meals together as a family nourish the spirit, brain and health of parents and kids alike.
  • When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all.
  • Plus, regular meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes we all want for our children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behavior.
  • In fact, kids and teens who share meals with their family three or more times per week are significantly less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to have eating disorders.
  • With each additional family meal shared each week, adolescents are less likely to show symptoms of depression, less likely to use/abuse drugs and less likely to engage in delinquent acts.


According to a Harris Poll, only 30 percent of American Families share dinner every night. To keep families eating together around the dinner table, we all need quick, easy recipes, meal solutions and tricks on how to prep once and eat twice to save time.

Prep Once, Eat Twice

Whenever I make 3-bean chili, I serve it with rice. The Chili can be easily stored in the fridge or freezer as a heat-and-eat dish. The leftover rice stores easily in the fridge too and can be warmed in the microwave or re-invented later in the week as veggie & rice stir-fry.

Similarly, whenever I slow-cook chicken breasts to make pulled chicken BBQ—I always save the broth to make a creamy risotto or chicken soup. What are some of your favorite ways that you like to cook once and eat twice?

Plan for What’s on the Menu

To help with meal planning at our house, I recently sat down with my family to make a list of our favorite meals. My meals listing includes the name of each dish, key ingredients needed and favorite side dish accompaniments (including plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables). This simple meal idea list helps me when it comes time to plan meals, write my shopping list and stay organized.

Favorite Family Meal Recipes

Here are just a few of my family’s favorite meals. Click on the highlighted link to access the full recipe.

Mushroom, Spinach & Pepper Omelette



Caprese Salad


Pan-Seared Salmon


Search social media for #FamilyMealsMonth to find more recipes and ideas on how to eat one more family meal a week! And, use #FamilyMealsMonth when you share ideas and tips for making family meals happen– especially during September: National Family Meals Month and all year long! Dietitians and community collaborators can access a free toolkit for ideas and best practices to join the family meals movement in your community.

We’d love to hear about some of your favorite family meals and ways that Pennsylvania’s dietitians encourage clients to eat family meals together more often. Tag us in your family meal posts on twitter or Instagram .@EatrightPA !

Karen Buch, RDN, LDN is a Central Pennsylvania-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who promotes the healthy enjoyment of food and helps consumers better understand the connection between food, nutrition and health. As owner of Nutrition Connections LLC, Karen provides a variety of food and nutrition communications consulting services to the food industry nationwide. Connect with her on the web at NutritionConnectionsLLC.com or follow her on facebook: Nutrition Connections LLC, instagram: @karenbuch1, twitter: @karenbuch or subscribe to her blog: Food News & Reviews.


Posted by: Julie Stefanski

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *