Every meal counts
As a reminder that every bite counts, this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” It is a reminder that making small changes in eating habits can add up over time, resulting in a healthy eating style that works for you. While every bite is a chance to make a positive change, every meal is also a chance, particularly when it comes to family meals.
The opportunity to have a family meal is often replaced with eating in front of the TV or while looking at a smart phone or tablet. This is unfortunate, because family meals are a time to reconnect, spend time together, and discuss the happenings of everyone’s day. This special time in everyone’s busy day has been shown to have important benefits, including lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents, in addition to better academic performance and self-esteem—many things parents hope for.
Beyond electronics, there are many other barriers to regular family meals, such as extracurricular activities during meal times, feeling pressure to cook something extravagant, or arguments during mealtimes. If your evening is filled with extracurricular activities, pick a different meal to eat as a family, such as breakfast or afternoon snack. Or if not all your family members are able to get together at any one meal, get as many as are available for certain meals and others at other meals. There is no need to cook anything fancy, or even cook at all. Simply taking what you would normally eat, sitting down at the table, eliminating distractions, and initiating conversation is enough. If arguments often happen at your table, agree to avoid these topics during meals and making the conversation enjoyable by discussing good and bad things about your day and what you’re looking forward to.
How to get the most out of family meals:
Set the goal to have at least three shared meals a week (breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack)
Get everyone involved in the planning and preparing of the meals or snacks
Keep conversation starters in a box or jar and pull one out if the conversations gets dull
Most importantly, keep them positive — save judgment, negative commentary, and arguments for another time
Following this year’s National Nutrition Month theme, every meal counts and every meal is an opportunity to connect with your friends, family members and co-workers. Need more motivation or ideas? Check out The Family Dinner Project (https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/).
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