August is Family Meals Month.
- Better academic performance
- Higher self-esteem
- Lower risk of substance abuse (drugs, cigarettes, alcohol)
- Lower rates of obesity and eating disorders
While some of these benefits have been debated (mostly around the issue of correlation vs. causality), on a basic level, family meals can strengthen your relationship with each other and with your food. From meal prep to cleanup, family mealtime is a wonderful opportunity to cultivate a “real food” culture in your home, and to lay the foundation for lifelong health and wellness.
Build Relationships with Your Food & With Each Other
In a world where we are increasingly pressed for time and pulled in different directions, making mealtime a family affair is a deliberate choice. In many ways, meals are the glue that binds us together. Our most important relationships are established and strengthened over meals.
Your dinner table is set with food that may reflect your culture, interests, and priorities. The constraints you set at the table, in terms of rules and manners, also reflect who you are as a family. If you say grace every night at the table before taking the first bite, that contextualizes your family and your dinner in the larger scheme of things and can strengthen your family identity.
Stopping to give thanks for the days blessings (including the food on your plate) and acknowledging where your food came from deepens the appreciation for what you eat. It’s the difference between mindlessly shoveling food in your mouth and valuing it strictly based on whether or not it tastes good, versus stopping to appreciate your food based on a variety of attributes — including taste — but also nutritional value and the life, time and work that was put into it before it reached your plate.
By making a point to acknowledge how fortunate we are to have fresh vegetables on our plate and clean water in our cups, our children may realize how truly lucky we are to have everything we need to grow up healthy, if we make smart choices about our food. Many other people don’t have the choices we have.
At my house, the emphasis is on creating positive relationships with our food, and with each other. We encourage laughing at the table, and value having fun more than “being proper, ” (though we do draw a line at talking with your mouth full). During the day we are all doing our own things, so dinner time is for unplugging and taking time to focus on each other.
When I cook, the dinner tends to be healthier but strictly functional (they all tease me that I can’t make a meal without a recipe). When my husband cooks, dinner tends to be delicious but not as well-balanced (think grilled ribs and smoked chicken legs). It’s a work in progress. Dinner is one of my favorite parts of the day. I know I’m giving my family something better than fast food, and I’m doing it because I love them. Even when the food is unexciting (meaning I cooked), it doesn’t matter because we still have the time together as a family. That’s more important than the food on my plate. I like to eat slowly and savor every bite — not only of the food — but also of the conversation. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, but today, in this moment, I don’t want to miss a single minute that I can get with my family.
Tips to Cultivate a “Real Food” Culture and Appreciation for Food
If you want your kids to appreciate their food, you have to get them involved with the meal long before it’s on the table. Here are a few ideas to support healthy eating habits and positive relationships with food in your family.
Gardening. The first step of mealtime planning starts months in advance, with gardening. At this time of year, depending where you live, it may be too late to get anything planted, but getting kids involved in the process of planting seeds, cultivating plants, and watching them grow over time deepens their appreciation and respect for plant foods. Because they are invested in their home-grown plants, they may be more likely to eat them.
The health benefits of gardening for kids and families may be even greater than those of eating family dinners (See research compiled by Cornell University). With container gardens and community gardens available, no matter where you live you can plant something- even if it’s just a tomato plant. Don’t have time for planting? You can still help your kids understand that food is not made at the grocery store by spending a day at a pick-your-own farm (and fall is perfect for apple picking!).
Shopping. When grocery shopping, bring your kids with you and let them pick some fruits and vegetables. Allow them to feel empowered by making their own choices. You can also talk to them about what you’re looking for on food labels, or why you might choose organic grapes, but non-organic bananas. Bring them with you to the local farmer’s market and talk to them about fresh vs. processed food. It will help shape the way they think about their food choices.
Food prep. Get them involved with cooking and clean up. This really turns mealtime into a family activity. Even small children can help with things like juicing, picking stems off of herbs, husking corn, scrubbing potatoes, measuring ingredients, stirring and spinning. As they get older, their jobs can evolve to match their capabilities. Cooking can be a lot of fun, and it integrates art as well as math and science. Plus, when they help make it, they are more likely to eat it.How to make cold brew in a french press? the network connectivity assistant service depends on the ip helper service which failed to start What is butter bts meaning? Tips on how 2 clean your room? What is atrial fibrillation? How to get canadian citizenship? What does 5g uc mean on my phone? Slick tricks bubbles solution gear made of what material? How to evolve riolu? what does ned say when homer runs through his house chasing santa's little helper? How to onlyfans tips? How much waiters make nyc after tips 2019? What is eugenics? How to add apps to apple watch? What is baclofen? What time does ga play today? How to listen to audiobooks? How to hold chopsticks easy? What does indeed mean? How to calculate square feet? What does naturalized citizen mean? The worry trick: how your brain tricks you into expecting the worst and what you can? What does it mean if the tips of your fingers are purple? What does the pow mia flag mean? What does the word integrity mean? What does surrender mean? What does deus ex machina mean? Tips on how to get internship? how to cook chicken helper rice in the microwave. How to make miso soup? I am who you say i am meaning? How to get rid of vlc video player tips on the screen? What is metaphor mean? What type dremel tool and tips do you need to cut agates? What is the time in syria? What does molly mean? How to remove oil stains from clothes? How do you put tricks together on the game of spades? What are nsfw tips? What's it called when a shemale tricks you? What makes eyelasher long the base or tips? How to remove someone from a group text? What level does dartrix evolve? What does bruce mean? how to create a helper method in the same file as method c What does stop mean? What are responsibilities? How to get into stanford? What payments does costco accept? How to number tricks? What does lsd do? What does hyna mean in spanish? what are jobs for the "helper" personality What happens after divorce papers are filed? What does it mean if your hematocrit is low? How to clean porcelain tile? How to delete google account from phone? What does in a nutshell mean? What does refuse mean? What is sso? How to get waterproof mascara off? What is the meaning of sweat? How long does it take to get blood work back? He who fights monsters quote meaning? What does uncanny mean? What icing tips makes a ruffle? How to balance vaginal ph? What does chemistry mean? Tips and tricks on how to make a prep extended? What are rotors on a car? What does muah mean? what color is helper on hypixel Evergrow coin how to buy? where is browser helper objects located? What are you up for meaning? What are the main ingredients in chicken salad? What side does the tassel go on? How to add a printer to iphone? How to sync onedrive? What is a nurse practitioner? What rides are at hollywood studios? How to convert pdf to excel? How to find standard deviation on calculator? Tips when homeless? How to ripstik tricks? What are the exercises to lose belly fat? How can i remember if took my meds tips? How to pass emissions test tricks? What does fyp mean tik tok? What does grower not a shower meaning urban dictionary? How to make crab rangoon? Tips on how to beat the three golden bosses in dark souls 2? What does hunch mean? What time does congress certify election results? How to get thick? How many calories to eat to lose weight? How to merge cells in word? What does coke starlight taste like? How to do juggleing tricks site:youtube.com?