Five Easy Ways to Eat Family Meals at Homeseger.23 | March 16, 2012
Typically in mid-March everyone eagerly waits for peaks of spring, which is just around the corner at this time of the year. But with the warm winter most of the country has been experiencing so far in 2012, many people feel that spring has already arrived! Of course, this wonderful season brings along with it a busy schedule for many families to cope with; t-ball games, swimming lessons, and even college visits can leave little time for parents to worry about cooking a healthy family meal at home. By now families understand the need for eating home-cooked meals as a family. When families dine together, they tend to eat more vegetables and fruits — and fewer fried foods, soda, research shows. When younger kids frequently eat dinner with their families, they are less likely to be overweight than other children. Eating meals at home is also cost-effective and creates special family bonding and communication time. For example, when families eat together often, they’re more likely to communicate with one another and have more respectful and trusting relationships with one another, which is especially critical during the teen years. Families have heard all of these justifications for eating together recently, but how do you put it into practice? Below are five easy ways to eat more healthful meals at home as a family.
1) Plan Ahead
We’ve all been there – when we arrive home at 5:30pm exhausted from a day at work and baseball practice begins in an hour. If you can plan ahead over the weekend for busy days during the week, you’ll be more likely to eat dinner during these days as a family. Plan ahead by making “weekly meal plan” for the week to come. For example, if you know that Tuesday night’s schedule will be chaotic, plan to make a healthy crock pot meal late the night before and heat it up during the day Tuesday. You’ll come home to a dinner that’s ready to eat, and much healthier than running through the drive-thru on the way to practice! By mapping out each meal of the week, you’ll also save money at the grocery store by not purchasing items that you won’t need or use.
2) Make it a Habit
On average, it takes 21-36 days of repetitive behavior to create a habit. If you can commit to cooking meals at home every day for one month, you will increase your chances of making it an everyday habit that lasts!
3) Make it a Family Event
If children are involved in the process of cooking a meal, or even choosing what to eat and helping to purchase it at the grocery store, they’re more likely to be enthusiastic about eating what’s cooked and eating it with the rest of the family. Younger children can help by selecting what to eat and using a dull knife (such as a butter knife) to cut fruit and vegetables before cooking. Older children can assist you by picking up items at the grocery store and even cooking the entire meal!
4) Start Simple
If you eat dinner out or not as a family very often now, try to set a goal of eating a family meal together twice for the first two weeks. Start from there and then add additional days until you’re eating at home together at least five nights each week. Keep the meal simple as well; a family meal does not equal an elaborate spread.
5) Make Meals Enjoyable by Limiting Distractions
Make a rule that the TV is turned off, cell phones are put away, and the conversation is limited to light-hearted topics. Try a change of scenery by having a picnic in your backyard on a warm day or under a home-made tent in the living room. The more enjoyable family meals are, the more likely it will be a daily event that everyone in the family looks forward to!
Author: Jamie Seger, OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant
Sources: http://nutrition.wsu.edu/ebet/background.html, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/10/change-your-life-habit-28-day-rule, http://children.webmd.com/guide/family-dinners-are-important