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Make Family Meals a Tradition

Brenna Stein, Dietetic Intern

Getting the family together in the same place at the same time can be difficult.  Between work schedules, after-school activities and errands, families may have little time for food preparation.  Here are some ways to make family meals happen.

  1. Keep it simple. Having a meal as a family doesn’t have to be a formal event.  Choose simple, colorful foods, and make sure to include ingredients that you know your family loves.  Plan ahead so you can serve leftovers as the basis for the next meal.
  2. Start slow. Set a goal of having one family meal per week.  After you get the hang of one meal, try for two family meals per week, and increase as you see fit.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to try to have a family meal every day.  Remember, family meals don’t always have to be at dinner time.  Try a lunch or breakfast if it fits better with everyone’s schedule. 
  3. Get everyone involved. Find a task for every person to do.  Use family meals as teachable moments for children.  Tasks can be as simple as putting plates on the table, tossing the salad, folding napkins or being a taste tester.  Older kids may be able to do more, such as gathering ingredients, washing fruits and vegetables, mixing, cutting ingredients and serving.  You could even consider assigning nights for the older kids to cook a meal with you as their helper. 
  4. Remove distractions. Keep the televisions turned off and keep the cellphones away from the dinner table.  Family meals are a time to talk to each other without worrying about who is on the news or who needs to talk to you.  Try to avoid talking about family issues at the dinner table.  The family table should be a place of respect, safety, support and interest in what everyone has to say. 

Make March the start of your family meals.  North Dakota State University Extension Service just launched a program called “The Family Table:  Eat, Savor, Connect.”  Visit for more information on tips, benefits, and recipes for family meals!

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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