Ring the Dinner Bell!

September 13th, 2017

By: Laura Ali, MS, RDN, LDN

Some of my favorite memories from childhood are sitting around the dinner table with my parents, brothers and sister. My mom made sure that we ate dinner as a family as many nights as possible. We talked, argued, played with our food but generally enjoyed that hour together as a family. We didn’t have special games or routines, it was just a time to connect before we scattered to do homework or head out to one of our many activities.

Unfortunately today, while most appreciate the value of sharing a meal, only 25 % of meals are eaten together as a family. Most families average 7-1/2 meals eaten together in a week: but that includes breakfast and lunch as well as dinner. 1

September is Family Meals Month where everyone is encouraged to eat one more meal together a week. Getting back into the routine of school and activities, this is the perfect month to also get back into the routine of eating together and reconnecting.

The benefits for your family are huge! Eating together encourages children to talk about their day, improves communication skills, reduces the risk of risky behaviors and helps parents stay on top of what is going on in their children’s lives.

Did you know?
Families that share just 3 meals a week together have children who are 4 times less likely to smoke cigarettes, 3 times less likely to smoke marijuana and 2 times less likely to drink alcohol.
Children who eat 5 or more dinners with their families have 20% more “A” grades and children who eat just 2 dinners with their families have 12% more A grades .
Children who eat 3 meals a week at home have a 24% increase in healthy food consumption over those who eat with their family fewer times?2

Here are a few tips to help your family eat just one more meal together each week:

Plan, Plan, Plan: Keep meal prep during the week to a minimum. Plan your menus during the weekend and prep anything you can ahead of time. Organize your refrigerator and pantry so you can grab what you need for that meal quickly.

Keep it Simple: Have one or two things in the freezer that you can pull out in the morning and heat up quickly when you get home. Soups and stews, casseroles or pasta bakes are easy to throw in the oven to heat up while the kids finish their homework or get chores done while waiting for dinner

Make one Meal: Not everyone is going to like everything but the less your are a short order cook the more time you will have to enjoy dinner. Have side dishes that you know everyone will like and encourage your kids to try everything. Ask for their input when making your menus. Giving everyone a choice will increase the likelihood of them eating and enjoying their dinner!

Take Advantage of Weekends: Sunday brunch or Saturday lunches are also great times to get the family together. Share what went on during the week or what everyone’s plans for the upcoming week look like.

Get Outside! Who says family lunch or dinner has to be around the kitchen table? It’s a great time of year for a hike. Gather everyone up and head to your local park for some leaf peeping. Then spread out a blanket and enjoy and fall picnic lunch or dinner.

For more ideas and easy family recipes:

United States Department of Agriculture: Choose My Plate

Food Marketing Institute

Cooking Matters

The Family Dinner Project

Pennsylvania Education Network: Eat Together PA

1 Food Marketing Institute 2017 Shopping Trends Survey
2 https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month/meals-matter

Posted by: Julie Stefanski

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