In the fast paced society that we live in it can be very difficult to get the family together for a healthy, well balanced meal. This leaves many families left to choose high calorie, fat and sugar options that are commonly found in local convenience stores, take-out joints and fast food restaurants. Taking the time to plan a family meal has shown to have many positive health benefits, especially with children. Studies have shown that children who participate in homemade family meal gatherings are more likely to form healthy eating habits that carry into adulthood compared to those who do not. More specifically, children who do not participate in family meals are more prone to snack on high sugary foods and beverages and less likely to consume fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Family meal time also allows families to reconnect and for parents and children to develop a strong bond which is essential for behavioral development in adolescence.
Remember family meals do not have to be stressful. Here are some tips to plan quick and healthy meals for you and your family.
- At the beginning of each week look at the calendar to determine the best days you and your family can have a sit down meal and mark them down. Do not worry if this number is only once per week. You can always strive for more family sit downs in the future.
- Plan the meals you are going to make ahead of time when making your food-shopping list. It’s best to start by looking in your cabinets at what you already have and build from there.
- Try to keep a supply of nonperishable food items on hand in the kitchen including: brown rice, whole grain pasta, beans, frozen fruits and vegetables, cooking oils, sauces, and seasonings.
- If you have a busy work week and a lot of family meals scheduled, choose a day where you can chop vegetables, prepare, and freeze your meals. Have extra storage containers on hand. The only work that needs to be done at meal time is to heat up the food.
- If time allows, involve your children in meal preparation. This allows for extra family bonding time. It has also been shown that the more exposure children have to certain foods like fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to try them.
Here are some websites that can further aid in your family meal planning:
- http://food.unl.edu/fnh/basic-list This website helps develop a grocery list from items that are already in the kitchen.
- http://food.unl.edu/fnh/recipe-central This website provides information on cooking with your children, quick healthy recipes, and food safety and storage tips.
Child Development Institute. Why Your Family Should Eat Together: 2 Critical Reasons. Available at childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/why-your-family-should-eat-together-2-critical-reasons/ Accessed 30 July 2015.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Family Meals Month. Available at food.unl.edu/fnh/august#family_mealsmonth/ Accessed 30 July 2015.