Inspiration for Family Meal Time

When you think about spending time with family, some of the images conjured are spent around the table. These images always seem to be more Pinterest-worthy than the everyday meal, though. However, that doesn’t mean that these everyday meals are less impactful in the long run. According to Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD, when it comes to family meals, the food on your plate isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to healthfulness. The people sitting at the table, the topic of conversation and overall atmosphere play large roles in your family’s health, too

Stanford Children’s Health states that “dinner is a perfect opportunity to build self-esteem in children.” This research also states that family dinner time is an opportunity for parents to teach by example and to help build, and even enhance, family dynamics.

“Dinner time is the DNA of family dynamics,” said psychologist Barbara Fiese, director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We know that families are crunched for time today, but the meal doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out affair. We found that the average length of time for dinner was between 18 and 20 minutes.”

Of course, not every family gathering spent around the table will be perfect. Picky eaters, bickering siblings, tired parents and other factors can make mealtimes stressful. However, one way to avoid some of these issues is to keep the meal free of any other distractions, including cell phones, laptops, televisions and gaming devices. And that goes for adults as well as kids.

According to an article from the Huffington Post, “Technology has invaded our dinner space with television, tablets, and of course the constant use of smartphones, with email and texting. Eliminate the distractions and start talking. Mom and Dad need to be the role models for this behavior, so put away the phone before you sit down at the table, and make it a family rule.”

Sometimes family meals can seem intimidating – gathering the whole family around the table for a meal can require a lot of time. However, Working Mother offers some tips, including shopping shortcuts, prepping the kitchen and having some “rescue-me recipes.”

So, what are some ways to implement these tips?

Shopping shortcuts:

  • Make lists, and sort them by section/aisle
  • Buy frozen grilled chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken
  • Shop online and utilize grocery pickup

Prepping the kitchen tips:

  • Organize the spices alphabetically
  • Store your go-to tools and gadgets close to the oven
  • Getting rid of spices, appliances and kitchen utensils that you aren’t using.

Your rescue steps for meals:

  • When making a family-favorite meal, make double and freeze half.
  • Breakfast food is a crowd pleaser, and easy to make in a pinch!
  • Incorporating canned foods into your meals helps save a lot of time – and money.

And, good news, you don’t just have to share meals at your home to share in the benefits of eating together. According to Understood, dining out at a restaurant as a family has its challenges, too, but also encourages:

  • Flexibility in foods
  • Distraction-free meals
  • Celebrations
  • Social skills and manners
  • Communication skills

When it comes to making the effort to gather around the table, Fiese points out that the work is worth it when it comes to an improved family dynamic and atmosphere. And, planning doesn’t have to be hard. We’re here to give you a little “Pinspiration” for your next family meal. Search through recipes, inspirational quotes, discussion starters and more to help you prepare for your next family meal.

Where do you typically enjoy your family meals?

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