Tips for Making Family Dinners into Lasting Memories

Gathering together as a family to share a meal and bond over life’s ups and downs has become rare.

In fact, according to a 2013 Harris poll, only 30 percent of American families share dinner every night (1). Schedules overflowing with school, work, and extra-curricular obligations are understandably responsible, life is crazy. But, let’s admit it, even when parents and kids have the chance to gather for mealtime, our electronic devices often have a seat at the table. Family mealtime is not only an opportunity to eat a wholesome meal together, it’s a time to make lasting memories that your children won’t forget.

Regular family meals are also linked to higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behavior (2-13). Plus, as parents, we get to spend more time enjoying the biggest “projects” we’ve taken on in life and, I think you’d agree, that’s winning the ultimate game!

So, hit the pause button and implement one or all of these tips to make your family dinner table the place to be!  

1. Be Present:

Dinner time could be the only quality time you spend with your family, so take family dinners to the next level by making a point to be present. Enjoy meals  together electronic device free. After all, numerous studies show that home-cooked meals nourish the spirit, brain and health of all family members.

2. Schedule It:

It seems contradictory to suggest adding another entry to an already packed calendar when trying to slow down and enjoy family dinner time. However, by marking a set day (or days!), everyone can anticipate the event and plan accordingly. This is especially important when kids become teenagers with their own social schedules. When things get really hectic, think outside the dinner hour and make Sunday brunch or Saturday lunch the big event.

3. Simplify It:

Family dinners do not have to be “fancy-schmancy.” I’ve found that quick, easy, kid-friendly meals are not only less stressful to prepare, but also casual and comforting meals that the whole family will enjoy. Here are some of our 30-minute favorites with beef:

Beef Picadillo Tacos

Beef Fajita Soup

Szechuan Beef Stir Fry

Mexican Beef Breakfast Nachos

4.  Share the Work:

Involve the whole family in making dinner by divvying up the tasks from planning, shopping and prep to serving and clean-up – age appropriately, of course. For example, little ones can set the table while older children can make a salad or put dishes in the dishwasher afterward. Show ‘tweens and teens various cooking methods and how to plan a balanced meal, budget and shop. This not only brings the family together for more quality time, but also teaches and empowers children with new life skills.    

5. Make it Fun:

Family dinner night isn’t just about eating, it’s about connecting and making memories. Get creative and host a theme night, based on a specific cuisine like a Taco Tuesday or Spaghetti night. Give kids free reign to decorate, select background music, and come up with a game for the table.

 

What are some of your family favorite meals? Tell us in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Wolfson, J. and Bleich, S. (2014). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutrition, Published online 17 November 2014.
  2. The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, which The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia) published on August 22, 2012.
  3. Canadian Family Physician. 2015 Feb; 61(2):e96-106. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325878/
  4. Canadian Family Physician. 2015 Feb; 61(2):e96-106. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325878/
  5. Journal of Pediatric Child Health. 2013 Nov;49(11):906-11. doi: 10.1111/jpc.12428. Epub 2013 Oct 31.  © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health © 2013 Pediatrics and Child Health Division (Royal Australasian College of Physicians). http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jpc.12428/abstract
  6. Journal of Pediatric Child Health. 2013 Nov;49(11):906-11. doi: 10.1111/jpc.12428. Epub 2013 Oct 31.  © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health © 2013 Pediatrics and Child Health Division (Royal Australasian College of Physicians).
  7. The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). 2012;26:815.10
    http://www.fasebj.org/content/26/1_Supplement/815.10.abstract?sid=e7fa907a-85bc-418f-974b-e4997920c259
  8. Archives of Family Medicine. 2000 Mar;9(3):235-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10728109
  9. Pediatrics 2011 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/e1565
  10. MEIER, A. AND MUSICK, K. (2014). VARIATION IN ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN FAMILY DINNERS AND ADOLESCENT WELL-BEING. JOURNAL O MARRIAGE AND FAMILY, 76 (1).
  11. NEUMARK-SZTAINER, D. (2010). FAMILY MEALS AND ADOLESCENTS: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM PROJECT EAT (EATING AMOUNT TEENS)? PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITION, 13 (7). 
  12. WOLFSON, J. AND BLEICH, S. (2014). IS COOKING AT HOME ASSOCIATED WITH BETTER DIET QUALITY OR WEIGHT-LOSS INTENTION? PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITION, PUBLISHED ONLINE 17 NOVEMBER 2014. 
  13. HAMMONS, A. AND FIESE, B. (2011). IS FREQUENCY OF SHARED MEALS RELATED TO THE NUTRITIONAL HEALTH OF CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS? PEDIATRICS, 127 (6). 
  14. WANSINK, B. AND VAN KLEEF, E. (2014). DINNER RITUALS THAT CORRELATE WITH CHILD AND ADULT BMI. OBESITY, 22 (5). 

 

 

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