Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only meal your family is eating together.

Sometimes, family meals feel like a daily battle, with busy schedules and varying food preferences. It can be so much easier to have everyone eat what they want, where they want, when they want. Busy schedules mean eating in the car as you hurry to a meeting, soccer practice, or the gym. I’ve admittedly had a hard time with this lately. Our recent family meals are often eaten standing at the kitchen counter while bouncing our baby or sitting at the table (or on the floor) while entertaining her.

With so much on our plates already, family meal time can just seem like another chore, but research has shown that the benefits are well worth the effort.

Family mealtime benefits (without television):

  • Children are 35% less likely to to engage in disordered eating and 12% less likely to be overweight
  • Family members eat better (more fruits and vegetables)
  • Cognitive development and academic achievement improve
  • Emotional security and sense of belonging
  • Decreases stress and tension in the family
  • Children less likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs

If nightly family mealtime is just not realistic for you, make small goals that are realistic. Aim for one more family dinner a week, eat breakfast together, or have a healthy evening snack around the table and take the time to connect.

Remember that your family meals don’t have to be Pinterest-worthy. Simplify meals, utilize the slow cooker, reheat leftovers, or purchase pre-cut veggies, salad mixes, or whole grain pizza crusts.

Engage your family, have everyone help with the planning, cooking, and cleaning. Use that time, along with time at the table, to talk, share, and enjoy each other’s company. Growing up, I took family meal time for granted, and now that I have my own family, I know that the struggle is real, but so are the benefits. Start small, set a goal, and keep trying!

Megan Ostler MS, RDN
iFit Dietitian