Family Meals

Family Meals

Family meals are making a comeback. And that's good news for a couple of reasons:

Beyond health and nutrition, family meals provide a valuable opportunity to reconnect. This becomes even more important as kids get older.

Making Family Meals Happen

It can be a big challenge to find the time to plan, prepare, and share family meals, then be relaxed enough to enjoy them.

Try these three steps to schedule family meals and make them enjoyable for everyone who pulls up a chair.

1. Plan

To plan more family meals, look over the calendar to choose a time when everyone can be there.

Figure out which obstacles are getting in the way of more family meals — busy schedules, no supplies in the house, no time to cook. Ask for the family's help and ideas on how these roadblocks can be removed. For instance, figure out a way to get groceries purchased for a family meal. Or if time to cook is the problem, try doing some prep work on weekends or even completely preparing a dish ahead of time and putting it in the freezer.

2. Prepare

Once you have all your supplies on hand, involve the kids in preparations. Recruiting younger kids can mean a little extra work, but it's often worth it. Simple tasks such as putting plates on the table, tossing the salad, pouring a beverage, folding the napkins, or being a "taster" are appropriate jobs for preschoolers and school-age kids.

Older kids may be able to pitch in even more, such as getting ingredients, washing produce, mixing and stirring, and serving. If you have teens around, consider assigning them a night to cook, with you as the helper.

If kids help out, set a good example by saying please and thanks for their help. Being upbeat and pleasant as you prepare the meal can rub off on your kids. If you're grumbling about the task at hand, chances are they will too. But if the atmosphere is light, you're showing them how the family can work together and enjoy the fruits of its labor.

3. Enjoy

Even if you're thinking of all you must accomplish after dinner's done (doing dishes, making lunches, etc.), try not to focus on that during dinner. Make your time at the table pleasant and a chance for everyone to decompress from the day and enjoy being together as a family.

They may be starving, but have your kids wait until everyone is seated before digging in. Create a moment of calm before the meal begins, so the cook can shift gears. It also presents a chance to say grace, thank the cook, wish everyone a good meal, or to raise a glass of milk and toast each other. You're setting the mood and modeling good manners and patience.

Family meals are a good time to teach civilized behavior that kids also can use at restaurants and others' houses, so establish rules about staying seated, passing items instead of grabbing them, putting napkins on laps, and not talking with your mouth full.

You can gently remind when they break the rules, but try to keep tension and discipline at a minimum during mealtime. The focus should remain on making your kids feel loved, connected, and part of the family.

Keep the interactions positive and let the conversation flow. Ask your kids about their days and tell them about yours. Give everyone a chance to talk.

Need some conversation starters? Here are a few:

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2011





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
Web SiteAllrecipes.com This site offers more than 40,000 free recipes, plus lots of cooking tips and information.
Web SiteMeals for You This site contains extensive categories (including vegetarian, diabetic, and low fat meals) and the ability to search recipes by ingredient.
Web SiteNational Center for Nutrition and Dietetics Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.
OrganizationVegetarian Resource Group This site offers recipes, nutrition information, and lots more for vegetarians and anyone looking to eat less meat.
Web SiteFood Network TV's Food Network goes online with searchable menus and recipes, an encyclopedia of cooking terms, and ideas from celebrity chefs.
Web SiteTips for Cooking with Kids Helpful tips from PBS for parents who are cooking with kids.
Web SiteChooseMyPlate.gov ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information on how to follow the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes resources and tools to help families lead healthier lives.
Related Articles
Healthy Food Shopping What you put in the grocery cart can affect your child's health and attitude toward nutritious food.
Smart Supermarket Shopping You don't need to be a scientist to figure out how to make safe, healthy food choices. Before grabbing a shopping cart and heading for the aisles, read this article to make grocery shopping a snap.
Food Labels Look at any packaged food and you'll see the food label. This nutrition facts label gives the lowdown on everything from calories to cholesterol. Read more about food labels.
Your Secrets to Healthy Snacking More than 1,000 teens took our survey on healthy snacking. Here are their thoughts (and advice) on choosing healthy snacks.
Cooking With Kids Inviting kids into the kitchen to help you cook can be a great way to create quality together time and help your child learn and refine some basic skills.
Keeping Portions Under Control Waistlines have been expanding over the last few decades. Part of the problem is what we eat, but another is quantity. Are our plates simply piled too high?
Go, Slow, and Whoa! A Kid's Guide to Eating Right Want to eat healthier? It's easy when you learn the difference between Go, Slow, and Whoa foods!
Healthy Eating Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here's how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.
Nutrition & Fitness Center You know the importance of exercising and eating nutritious foods, but do you know how to raise a healthy and active child? Get practical advice and tips.
Ready, Set, Breakfast! Did you eat breakfast today? Find out why it's important.
Cooking Tips and Resources Get some cooking basics in this article for teens, including tips on where to find recipes.
Take a Look at Cooking Do you like to eat? If so, you might like to learn to cook. Find out how in this article for kids.
5 Ways to Get Your 5 a Day You may know that you should eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Here are some tips on making that happen.
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter