Make Mealtime Part of Your Family’s Routine


Family meals when I was a child did not conjure up a Norman Rockwell sort of image. You see, my father loved the concept of eating dinner on a TV tray, perched in his favorite chair, watching Walter Cronkite and the Evening News. I vowed early on that when I had a family, our mealtimes would be different. And this was long before I understood the many benefits for children associated with shared mealtimes – improved academic achievement and higher self-esteem to name a few.

Family meals became a routine in my home from the beginning … often to the amazement of my daughters’ friends (“You sit down at the table, without TV, most nights? Really?”). I won’t pretend it was always easy, as our schedules often kept us running, usually in opposite directions. But some “barriers” could be managed pretty easily:

healthy family dinnerThink a family dinner has to be complicated and time-consuming? Not so! Lots of simple dinners can be prepared and eaten in less than an hour. Check out these quick meals for ideas. Even if you’re bringing home take-out food, serve it on actual dishes … sit down around the table in a relaxed manner, even for just 20 minutes.

Think dinner is the only meal you can share as a family? Branch out. For example, our daughters loved Sunday morning breakfasts we shared when Dad would pull out the waffle iron and work his culinary magic.

Think that all family meals have to be at home? Not necessarily. When our daughters were young, my husband was still working Saturdays in his dental practice. We’d often bring him a picnic lunch to share in his office – great fun!

Feel overwhelmed doing all of the planning and preparation yourself? Delegate! Have your children suggest their favorite meal for one night of the week. As they get older, involve them in the preparation with simple kitchen tasks.

Mealtimes are so much more than just the food. For my family, this became a place where we could celebrate successes and commiserate over disappointments. We shared, debated … and laughed! Think of family meals as an opportunity to nurture your children in addition to nourishing them. With a little planning, and a willingness to be flexible, family meals can become part of your routine.