October is Eat Better, Eat Together Month
When was the last time your entire family sat down and enjoyed a healthy, home-cooked meal together? If you feel like it’s been a while since your family shared a meal, October is a great time to start eating together more often. October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month, where families are encouraged to gather together during mealtimes.
Eating together can make a big difference in your family’s health. Meals tend to be more balanced and nutritious when families eat together, and kids who regularly eat with their families are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables instead of snacking on unhealthy foods. Beyond health and nutrition, family meals are a great opportunity for parents and their children to reconnect and spend time together. Children and teenagers also do better in school, improve in communication skills, and have fewer behavioral issues when they spend more time with their parents.
Busy schedules, lack of time, and extracurricular activities may make it difficult for families to eat together on a regular basis. Here are some great tips that will make it easier for your family to find time to eat better together.
1. Schedule Family Meal Times
Look over the family calendar and choose a day and time when everyone is available. Try to work around any events, sports games, work commitments, appointments, etc. Create the habit of eating together once a week to start, and then you can gradually increase to 2 to 3 times a week. There are no rules that say that these family meals have to be during dinnertime. Breakfast and lunch are also meals that can be shared together. During weeks with busier than average weeknights, make a family breakfast or brunch date for the weekend.
2. Prepare Meals in Advance
Look up recipes ahead of time to plan exactly what you will be cooking for the meal. This allows you to go to the grocery store with a set shopping list rather than wasting time trying to decide at the store. Remember–the meal does not have to be fancy or complicated. Stock up on easy meal ingredients to have on hand at home. Simple ingredients like canned soups, eggs, sliced cheese and bread, or pasta and jars of spaghetti sauce can make mealtime easy on busier days.
Meal prep is a great way to save time when it comes to planned family dinners. Prepare the meal on a weekend or a night that you have some free time. There are plenty of meals you can prepare ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate until family meal time. You can also cook double portions to freeze and save as a backup plan for busy nights! Slow cookers are also a huge help when it comes to easy meal prep. Just set it and forget it until mealtime!
3. Get Everyone Involved!
Make family meals a fun experience by getting everyone involved. Younger children can set the table, stir the bowl, pour beverages, and help with clean-up. Older kids and teens can help with the actual cooking, and even plan and cook the meal for a night with the parents as the helpers.
As previously mentioned, one of the benefits of eating together is that kids will learn about and adopt healthier eating examples. We tend to copy the eating habits of those around us. So if your dinners usually consist of take-out or frozen boxed dinners in front of the TV, those are the habits your kids and family members will inherit. Shared meals provide a valuable opportunity for family members to socialize, exchange ideas, communicate better, and grow closer together. Remember to keep your conversation positive, and give everyone a chance to talk. Take this month of October to begin the journey of eating better and eating together.