We're going into the third week of September and everyone is back at their routines-- juggling work, kids schedules, their own schedules, extra activities-- all the things that seem to erase the positive effects of lazy summer days when people relaxed more and enjoyed more. As you settle into these new routines, I'm once again going to give a shout out to families who continue to enjoy family meals together, despite the busyness of their lives and encourage those who don't to revisit this tradition.
There is strong science to support the family meal. Studies have shown that teens who participated in regular family meals reported more healthy diets compared to their friends who ate fewer family meals. Eating family meals increases the likelihood of kids eating more fruits and vegetables, fibre, vitamins and minerals (in food, not pills)--in general healthier diets. These healthy habits, once developed, can extend into adulthood.
So how can you make this happen? Here are some tips:
It starts with a little planning. Take a few minutes on the weekend to look at everybody's schedules for the week. At the same time, you can plan for nights when some of you will be home and nights when you all might be there.
With this information, you can start to plan meals that are easy to put together and that everyone can enjoy.
Get input from everybody so those family meals can include family favourites.
If time is a factor, think of fast and easy meals.
When you have time, make double batches so you will have another dinner later in the week. Big batches of soups, stews, casseroles, pastas or meatloaf are easy to cook and freeze. Dinner doesn't always have to be complicated. Sandwiches, wraps, salads, omelettes, quesadillas, stir-fries can all make a good meal. Or, make things like tacos or fajitas that everyone can assemble.
Everybody can be involved. The younger kids can help set the table, the older kids can make a salad or do some other dinner preparations with you.
Convenience is fine as long as you make good choices. Buying vegetables already cut up for a stir-fry or a chicken that is already roasted may cost a bit more but there is little waste and it saves you time in preparation.
The family meal doesn't have to always be at home...it can be in a restaurant as along as it's a place where there are healthier meal options.
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