We all know that family mealtime is important, but scheduling time together is often easier said than done. When you get home from work or if you’ve spent the day running around after your kids, it can be tempting to grab food on the go or microwave a quick meal for the kids and order in for yourself.
However, every once in a while it’s important to take an hour out of your day to turn the TV off, put the phones and computers down, and enjoy a healthy meal while reflecting on the events of the day. Take it from us (and our experts at NYU Langone Medical Center who also had something to say about the matter!), your family will benefit in more ways than you know:
It’s important for your family relationship. The only way to foster a close-knit family is to spend quality time together, and weeknight meals are the perfect opportunity. Eating together every night might be a stretch for your family, but a couple nights a week at least, plan a meal where you can sit down together, talk about your day, and find out what’s happening in each other’s lives. What you learn might surprise you!
On that note, you may learn things about each other wouldn’t otherwise find out. We rush around in so many different directions that we often don’t have the time to chat about the little things in life—who your toddler played with at school, the project your wife is spending her days on at work, the amazing book your teenager read at school. Taking the time to spend a meal together—without lots of outside interruptions—will help you understand each other better and address exciting news and/or challenging issues in a more timely manner.
Your picky eater may just try something new. Kids tend to eat pretty early, so it’s not always convenient to eat as a family. However, if you have a picky eater on your hands and you make a concerted effort to eat dinner together as a family, he or she may be inspired to dig in to what the rest of you are eating. It’s not a guarantee, but a major way kids learn is by watching and observing, which is pretty difficult to do if they’re always eating by themselves.
You’ll eat healthier. After a long day, it often seems like the best way to handle dinner is to order in or grab take out and eat as you please. While this might be easier, doing so may not be good for your waistline. More often than not, grab and go meals are much more unhealthy than what you’d make for yourself at home, and eating this way every night can add lots of extra calories and saturated fat to your diet. Home-cooked meals don’t have to be difficult or over the top gourmet. Marinate chicken overnight and throw it on the grill; roast some vegetables in olive oil, salt, and pepper; and bake a sweet potato in the oven—and there you have an easy and healthy dinner for the whole family.
If lack of cooking time is the reason for your lack of family meals, don’t let it be your excuse! Prep your meals over the weekend when you have the time so all you have to do is defrost or throw it in the oven. You can also search the endless number of cooking sites out there for easy 20-minute meals that literally entail throwing things in a pot. Or, check out Kitchensurfing, a company that sends a private chef to your home to cook, serve, and clean up a meal for your family. This way you can spend more time as a family and less time worrying about what to make for dinner!