Seemingly endless after-school activities, extended workdays, fractured schedules, long commutes…it’s easy to see why so many families find it difficult to make time to share dinner together at the end of the day. But some recent studies show that the family dinner is an important part of healthy living.
One thing to remember is that a family meal doesn’t have to resemble a scene from The Donna Reed Show or Father Knows Best (hopefully there are still a few baby boomers who remember those TV classics). Family meals can be casual and even creative. Try build-your-own taco dinners, burgers on the grill served with some healthy non-fried sides, and a wide variety of condiments so everyone can customize, soup and sandwich nights when everybody builds their own fresh and healthy “Dagwood.” The choices are limitless and will be most successful when they reflect your own family’s style and preferences. Really short on time? Pick up some healthy fare from a local restaurant to enjoy around the table at home.
When it comes to the family dinner, the most important thing is making it happen. Start by setting a goal of how many nights a week you can synchronize your schedules. Bring the whole family into the planning so you get buy-in from the beginning. Start simple so the production of making dinner doesn’t overshadow the pleasure of sharing the meal. Make it special – put on some soft music and light candles (it goes unsaid that the TV is turned off, and phones, tablets and other devices are not allowed around the table). It’s amazing how quickly conversation can arise without the outside distractions. It might seem a little foreign and take some schedule juggling at first, but it is amazing how quickly the family dinner can become a good habit that will become the norm instead of the exception.
Check out The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids One Meal at a Time by Laurie David. The producer of An Inconvenient Truth, David wants to help America’s overwhelmed families sit down to a Family Dinner, and she provides all the reasons, recipes, and fun tools to do so.