Family mealtime is good for everyone

Family mealtime is more than just food, it is also an opportunity to connect with loved ones over a nutritious meal.

Busy lives don’t always leave time for families to sit down for a meal together. What can be done? Choosing to make mealtime a priority is the first step. Begin by comparing schedules and plugging in family dinners. Try for the same nights each week to simplify planning. Keep your expectations realistic. Meals don’t need to be fancy and healthy meals can be simple. What does a healthy meal look like? According to the USDA My Plate guidelines half your plate should have fruits and vegetables. The rest should hold a serving of grain, a protein and a serving of dairy.

Planning is an important first step. Finding healthy menus and recipes can be a snap - SNAP-Ed Connection Recipe Finder that is! The USDA’s Recipe Finder allows you to search for a recipe by ingredient or the actual recipe name. There’s a section for meals in 30 minutes or less. You’ll find information on how to add more fruits and vegetables to your menus, tips on eating less fat and adding more whole grains.

The second step is to involve the whole family. This includes planning menus, shopping and even preparing dinner. Children can choose menu ideas, find foods on the grocery shelf, gather and stir ingredients, or set and clear the table. Did you know children who are involved with preparing meals are more likely to try new foods? If everyone pitches in to help with dinner after a busy day, the work load seems less daunting. It is also a great way to talk with your children. These are just a few of the benefits of letting your children work in the kitchen.

Step three is the best part; enjoy the food and your family. Spend this time relaxing before bedtime routines begin and when everyone is already thinking of tomorrow. Let each family member have a chance to talk about their day. A great way to get the conversation going is by asking, “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” Even very small children can answer that question.

When working together, your family can enjoy healthy meals and have quality time with positive benefits affecting every aspect of your family’s life.

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