Over time dinner has dramatically changed: from home-cooked meals to TV dinners to now where it’s almost non-existent in some homes. The Journal of Adolescent Health states more frequent family dinners are related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction. Other studies have shown children who eat family dinners perform better academically and have better relationships.
The importance of family time cannot be understated. Dinnertime helps us to reconnect as a family unit, discuss the day’s events and enjoy time together without distractions. So, what happened?
It isn’t that people don’t want to sit down and have a family dinner, it’s that often times in our busy lives other “stuff” gets in the way. Schedules collide, one child has practice clear across town from another child, no one had time to go to the grocery store, traffic was horrendous and the list goes on and on.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that family dinners don’t have to be elaborate, complicated or stressful. Use these tips to help your family have a nutritious meal to sit down and enjoy together:
Not planning meals may cause you to pick up fast food or turn to pre-packaged options. Take a few minutes to plan meals. Having a game plan helps to avoid the quick (and usually less nutritious) go-to.
Dinner can be simple. Try turkey sandwiches or wraps with plenty of vegetables and lean protein along with fresh fruit. Buy already cut fruit, vegetables and meats to decrease prep time. Make a big salad at the grocery store salad bar that is customized to your family’s tastes. When you buy meat, for example ground meat, take it home and cook it while you put the other groceries away. Dinner will take less time because the protein is already cooked.
Use Your Freezer
Prepared frozen dinners usually have a lot of “fillers” and sodium. Instead of buying prepared freezer meals, make your own. When making batches of soup or Italian meals, make extra, place in freezer safe containers, label and have available during pinch time. You’ll enjoy a quick meal that is still nutritious.
Have a “Go To” List
Let’s face it. You won’t have time to cook every night. Have a list of healthy choices that are available for pick-up at a local restaurant. Check out other sources for prepared, healthy options. Our neighborhood country club offers a variety of meals that you can order by noon for pick-up between 3-5:30pm. The meals are nutritious and reasonable.
Don’t give up on family dinner. You never know how much impact such a “small” thing makes on a growing mind.
By: Molly McBrayer, Clinical Manager, Roper St. Francis Bariatric and Metabolic Services