Eating meals together as a family

Family meals help create strong family bonds and healthy habits.

A family eating together.

Is your family too busy with work or school to eat meals together? Do you find family mealtime more of a burden than enjoyable? Life can be busy and adding one more task into the day may seem almost impossible but making time for family meals is one task that should not be skipped.

Family meals may look different for everyone. They may involve a picnic, ordering food to go or creating a home-cooked meal from scratch. A family meal is not always about what is being eaten, but rather that family members have time to eat together. Taking 30 minutes to eat together and talk together makes mealtimes more than just about putting energy into the body. Families that practice eating together create memories and help to create strong family bonds and healthy habits. Having a purpose for eating meals together can mean engaging in communication, sharing information or practicing manners and that can help families feel more connected to each other and interested in future mealtime together. Eating together can increase confidence and self-esteem helping to decrease stress and provide a way to share mealtime responsibilities.

Here are tips from Iowa State University on how to get started with family meals:

  • Make time for meals together a priority. The benefits of eating together far exceed possible scheduling challenges.
  • Be creative. Eat at the park or on a blanket on the floor. Sit with children where you can have eye contact and talk with each other.
  • Work towards variety. Try to include different foods with meals. This will encourage children to try something new. Make it a choice to taste the new food.
  • Make mealtimes fun and simple. Family meals filled with caring people and laughter creates happy memories that last a lifetime. Meals do not need to be complicated.
  • Include everyone. Preparing the food, setting the table and cleaning up makes light work for everyone. Enjoy table talk by sharing positive things that have happened during the day. Avoid negative talk.
  • Create traditions. Have a special plate that is rotated to celebrate special accomplishments and events for each family member. Set up special dinner nights like taco night or have each family member come up with their own special type of dinner.
  • Focus on each other. Listen to each other. Children love to share stories about what is happening around them. Ask children what is happening in their life. Turn off all electronics including television and put cell phones in a basket on silence.

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