10 Tips for Balancing Busy Schedules and Healthy Family Meals

busy parents provide tips to raise healthy eaters

We can appreciate how hard it can seem to get a well-balanced meal on the table during busy nights juggling sports, dance class, homework and work or school events because we've been there. We culled the collective wisdom of busy parents from around the globe during a blog carnival (see below) and these were the top 10 big ideas they shared, from their families to yours.

  1. Planning is essential; develop systems that make the purchasing, preparing and partaking easier. 
  2. Keep it simple. Family meals don’t have to be elaborate to be healthy and effective. Come up with easy ways to balance your meal with simple vegetable side dishes or fruit and yogurt for dessert. 
  3. Have healthy food on hand and eat from your freezer or pantry on busy weeknights. 
  4. Prepare double batches of food when you’re less rushed so you can cook once, eat twice. 
  5. Family meal does not have to be dinner, breakfast or lunch may work better in some households. 
  6. Toughen up. Offer your family one meal that includes all five-food groups and everyone should be able to find something they’ll want to eat. 
  7. Turn off technology and tune into each other. 
  8. Make conversation the focus of family meals, but keep it light. The dinner table is not the place for discipline. 
  9. Share the work. Enlist help from the family, from planning the shopping list to making lunches, setting the table, pouring the milk and clean up. Eating as a family is truly comforting, from toddlers, teens to adults. Family meals can become a cherished tradition for the whole family. 
  10. Dump the guilt. Family meals may not happen every day, and that’s ok. Make the most of your family meals when they occur. 

Family meals aren’t always easy, but we think they’re always worth the effort. Start or strengthen your family’s commitment and take the Eat Better, Eat Together family meal pledge today! 

These tips were shared during a Blog Carnival related to our Eat, Play, Love webinar on raising healthy eaters. We asked bloggers from around the web to share how they balance their family’s needs, activities and preferences to get a well-balanced family meal with all the food groups on the table at least three times per week.

Special thanks to our participants for sharing their wisdom.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD  
Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Susan Weiner RD MS CDE CDN 
Kia Robertson
Laura Everage
Samantha Lewandowski, MS, RD, LDN 
Cheri Liefeld
Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN 
Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD 
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Glenda Gourley