Family meals promote family togetherness. Family meals provide a time to share what is going on in each other’s lives and enjoy a nutritious meal. Families who eat together are more likely to have more balanced meals. Preparing the meal is an important part of mealtime. Have children help in every aspect of the preparation, from choosing the menu to setting the table to making the meal. Including children in the preparation can lead to lifelong knowledge and memories.
Children who eat more often with their families eat a healthier diet, including more grains, fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods. Grain foods, such as pasta, bread and rice, provide energy, vitamins and minerals. USDA’s MyPlate recommends that we make at least half our grains whole. The recommendations for grain foods are in “ounce equivalents.” Enjoy 3 or more ounce equivalents of whole-grain foods every day.
Enjoying more family meals takes a little planning, but it’s worth the effort. Children who eat with their families do better in school, are less likely to take part in risky behavior (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) and are less likely to have symptoms of depression. Children who eat more family meals have an overall healthier diet, compared with children who eat fewer family meals. They eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and calcium-rich foods, and they drink fewer soft drinks. Enjoy more family meals by taking some time to plan your menus and your shopping trips. Involve your family in menu planning, shopping, preparation and cleanup. Children can learn valuable life skills, such as cooking and communication skills, when helping in the kitchen. They learn to appreciate a variety of foods as they help plan and shop for meals.
Family meals give parents/caregivers a chance to be good nutrition role models for children. Whether you’re sharing a meal at a park, in a car or at the family table, children who eat with their families eat a more nutritious diet. They eat more fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods. Shared meals give families a chance to reconnect and talk about the events of their day. Children can learn communication skills, manners and their families’ values as they share food. Sharing meals also creates memories that will last a lifetime. Keep mealtime pleasant and allow enough time to eat because children eat better in a relaxed setting.
Children who eat with their families are more likely to meet their calcium needs and drink less soda pop. That’s good news because children are building strong bones and need calcium and other nutrients as the building blocks. Teens have the highest calcium needs due to their rapid growth. Children who meet their calcium and other nutrient needs are less likely to get the bone- thinning disease osteoporosis when they grow older. Adults should meet their calcium needs to keep their bones strong throughout life. About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 18 million are at risk of getting it due to low bone mass. Even though osteoporosis often is associated with women, about 20 percent of those who suffer from it are male. Osteoporosis is responsible for 1.5 million fractures a year, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Beef is a versatile menu item whether you’re cooking for one, two or a crowd. Beef provides protein, vitamins and minerals. A typical serving size for beef and other meat is 3 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. A 3-ounce serving of lean ground beef has about 180 calories, 10 grams of fat and 15 percent of the daily recommendation for iron.
Enjoying more family meals adds up to better nutrition, stronger family bonds and children who are less likely to participate in risky behavior. Be flexible with meal schedules and locations of your family meals. If evenings are too hectic, would a regular family breakfast work for you?
Vegetables are a nutritional bargain. Most vegetables are naturally low in calories and fat and naturally have no cholesterol. Eating vegetables rich in potassium, such as sweet potatoes, white beans and tomato products, might help decrease bone loss.
The food icon at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends that at least half of the grain foods in your diet bewhole grains.
Not all fats are the same. To help us sort out information about nutrition, the food icon at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov can help us choose a healthy eating plan that’s personalized for our age, sex and activity level.