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Family Meals: Small Investments, Large Returns

If you're concerned about what your family does (and doesn't) eat, the solution could be as close as your kitchen table. Gathering around the table to eat as a family has all kinds of benefits.

Family meals don't just mean better nutrition. Regular family meals are linked with many positive benefits for individuals and families, including opportunities for shared communication and lasting family connections. Plus, children are less likely to get involved in risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs. No wonder family meals are on the upswing.

Try these easy-to-follow tips to make family meals happen more often in your home:

  • Keep family meals simple: Attempting to make a meal with 20 ingredients is a recipe for disaster. Instead, gather a small collection of favorite recipes to help you get in and out of the kitchen in less than 30 minutes. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/recipes for simple, time-saving recipes.
  • Choose ingredients that multitask: Ingredients you can use for more than one meal can be a major time saver. Check out https://tinyurl.com/NDSU-MealPlanningTips for meal planning tips, menus and recipes.
  • Say "no" to takeout: A quick trip to the drive-through might seem like a speedy way to get dinner on the table, but it could be adding to your family's waistline. A simple meal made at home from lean protein, whole grains and fresh, frozen or canned vegetables more likely contains the nutrients your family needs without extra sodium and fat. See www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable/eat-better-eat-together for tasty, healthful meals on a budget.
  • Make family meals a habit. Make sure each family member knows that everyone is to be home for dinner at a particular time. When all family members expect to enjoy dinner at 5 p.m. on Sunday, they'll begin to look forward to this family time and will arrange their schedules around it. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable/make-family-meals-a-tradition for more ways to make family meals a tradition.
  • Asking for help is OK: You have an army of helpers right at your fingertips. Asking your kids to set the table, pour drinks or help make a salad doesn’t just make your job easier; it also teaches them that taking the time and effort to eat together as a family is important. Teens love the independence they have when shopping for groceries. Hand them some money and a grocery list and let them pick out an extra vegetable or a new grain for dinner. See www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable/invite-kids-in-the-kitchen for information on inviting kids into the kitchen.
  • Make family meals fun. Add some fun and excitement with food themes. You can use a checkered tablecloth for an Italian-inspired meal or prepare a fresh Asian-style Cobb salad and eat with chopsticks. Throw a blanket on your family room floor and enjoy a family picnic. Let everyone choose a theme and you'll see that your choices are endless.

Now that you're enjoying the meal, keep everyone involved with the conversation starters on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ndfamilytable/) and check out www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable/family-fun-at-the-dinner-table for more information on how to bring laughing and learning back to the table.

Start your family meal tradition today by making a commitment to eating at least one meal together each week. Before you know it, everyone will look forward to family meals.

Sources: www.ag.ndsu.edu, www.eatright.org

 By Brittany Twiss, R.D., L.R.D., Program Assistant

Filed under: fca newsletter

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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