Family meals don’t have to mean everyone sitting at the table. Even if it is just two people gathered together enjoying each other’s company and meals, it is important to share time with loved ones, device-free, as often as you can!
It’s mid-September and we’re officially off to the races with the school year. You know what that means... Crazed mornings, school lunches and scattered dinners. Guess what? That needs to change! And that’s why September is officially National Family Meals Month. I can’t tell you how many adult and child clients I’ve spoken with who tell me their main issue is getting their arms around meal times. Forget the latest smoothie craze, they need help just figuring out who will be home for a hot meal! I’m not here to shame anyone, but the fact is, we all benefit, both mentally and physically, from eating a meal together. To be honest, none of us are doing it enough.
Instead of making a New Years Resolution to lose weight or spend less time on your phone, try making a New School Year Resolution to eat together, without distractions. It might not be the whole crew sitting down to a roast chicken a la Ina Garten, but aim for at least two members of your family sitting at a table – on real chairs, using plates and utensils (unless it’s taco night), and talking to each other. Even if it is only 20 minutes. Doesn’t seem that hard, right?
Well, in our family, my husband rarely gets home in time for the kids’ dinner, so I eat whatever veggies I’m serving to them with them on the early side, then eat a small meal with my husband when he gets home later. On weekends, we eat as close to 3 meals a day together – as many as we can squeeze in! It is my absolute favorite part of the week when we are all in our pjs in the kitchen on a Saturday morning deciding what kind of eggs to make, with the kids playing and getting ready for whatever is on their crazy schedules. It’s such a special way to catch up on the week when we’ve all been so busy; plus, we’re fresh from a good nights sleep instead of being tired and cranky at the end of a long day.
Check out Harvard University’s TheFamilyDinnerProject.org for an awesome resource on how to reinvigorate your family meals – from insightful tips and problem solving skills to great recipes and conversation starters. Thiswebsite is helpful for families with kids of ALL ages. The New York Times put together a great article recently about this topic, as well – How to Have Better Family Meals with some helpful tips. Check it out to get those wheels turning on how to get your family gathered around the table.
In short – here are my 3 Roundtable Nutrition tips for family meals:
Sit at a table – we all have one, even if it’s currently being used as a dumping ground for mail and laundry. USE IT.
SIT AT IT.
EAT ON IT.
Use a napkin – sounds silly, but small details like that will help differentiate dinnertime as a meal, instead of a snack. If you have little ones, take the opportunity to get them involved – have them pick out which napkins to use and show them how to fold them, even if it’s paper!
Set a timer for 20 minutes – don’t get up from the table until 20 minutes is up. Everything can wait – even the phone, laundry, homework or your favorite show. Sit together, talk about anything... Or talk about nothing. Just sit together. The simple act of sitting together can help calm the brain and settle the mind.
I have more ideas and tips for you if this is an issue with your family, so feel free to set up an appointment to discuss more. I’d love to hear YOUR tips and ideas on how you make this a priority for your family, too!