Make time for fam­ily meals

Cecil Whig - - WE ATHE R -

Jug­gling jobs, kids and the de­mands of a busy, mod­ern life of­ten come at the ex­pense of fam­ily meal­time at home. Even though life never seems to slow down, now is the per­fect time to re­new your com­mit­ment to cre­at­ing and serv­ing meals at home that nour­ish your kids’ brains and help them flour­ish.

Not only is time to­gether around the ta­ble an op­por­tu­nity to catch up and re­con­nect, nu­mer­ous stud­ies pro­vide ev­i­dence of the pos­i­tive, life­long ben­e­fits of fam­ily meals. Reg­u­lar fam­ily meals are linked to the kinds of out­comes that en­sure a bright fu­ture for chil­dren: higher grades and self-es­teem, health­ier eat­ing habits and less risky be­hav­iors.

For ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished in the “Jour­nal of Pe­di­atrics,” kids and teens who share meals with their fam­i­lies three or more times per week are sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to be over­weight, more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to have eat­ing dis­or­ders.

Other stud­ies have shown that chil­dren who grow up shar­ing fam­ily meals are more likely to ex­hibit pos­i­tive so­cial be­hav­ior as adults, such as shar­ing, fair­ness and re­spect.

On the other hand, re­search also sug­gests that aside from missing out on the ben­e­fits, fam­i­lies that share fewer meals to­gether can also ex­pe­ri­ence ad­verse ef­fects when it comes to cer­tain risky be­hav­iors.

A study on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween cer­tain fam­ily char­ac­ter­is­tics and ado­les­cent prob­lem be­hav­iors, pub­lished in the “Jour­nal of Ado­les­cent Health,” found that teens who have in­fre­quent fam­ily din­ners (fewer than three per week) are 3.5 times more likely to have abused pre­scrip­tion drugs or have used an il­le­gal drug; 2.5 times more likely to have used tobacco and 1.5 times more likely to have used al­co­hol.

Meal plan­ning Plan­ning for fam­ily meal time can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Pro­mot­ing one more fam­ily meal each week is an ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram cre­ated by the Food Mar­ket­ing In­sti­tute Foun­da­tion and the na­tion’s gro­cery stores. Take the stress out of plan­ning and pre­par­ing fam­ily meals with these tips and be­gin reap­ing the ben­e­fits of more time to­gether around the din­ner ta­ble:

• Com­mit to hav­ing one ad­di­tional meal with your fam­ily each week at home. It doesn’t mat­ter whether it is break­fast, lunch or din­ner. The ben­e­fits are the same. Af­ter a month, you may be sur­prised by how eas­ily your new com­mit­ment has be­come a habit for the en­tire fam­ily.

• Rely on the re­sources avail­able at your lo­cal gro­cery store. Even when you don’t feel like cook­ing, there are count­less meal-plan­ning so­lu­tions such as preprepped fresh in­gre­di­ents, de­li­cious ready-made en­trees and whole­some heatand-eat dishes.

• Make meal plan­ning a fam­ily af­fair. List each fam­ily mem­ber’s fa­vorite foods in each of the main food groups and see how many com­bi­na­tions you can cre­ate. Then ask your chil­dren to ac­com­pany you to the store to help se­lect the in­gre­di­ents (and use the trip for age-ap­pro­pri­ate learn­ing, such as com­par­ing prices, read­ing la­bels, etc.).

• Save time by en­gag­ing the whole fam­ily in meal prepa­ra­tion. Even the lit­tlest hands can help with tasks like set­ting the ta­ble.

• Set a reg­u­lar meal time so you can plan other ac­tiv­i­ties around it. Sit around the ta­ble, turn off the TV and put away phones and elec­tronic de­vices. Keep the fo­cus on each other.

Learn more about the pos­i­tive im­pact reg­u­lar meals at home to­gether can have for your kids’ emotional, in­tel­lec­tual and phys­i­cal well-be­ing at na­tion­al­fam­i­ly­mealsmonth.org.

Fam­ily Fea­tures

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