If you haven’t heard, research shows that eating together as a group or family provides both physical and mental health benefits. Family meals promote healthier eating choices in children and can even prove beneficial in the classroom. Coworkers who regularly eat together also work better together and are more productive.
But how can we eat together when we are constantly on-the-go? If you’re like me and many other Americans, you’re no stranger to the busyness of life. In fact, one in ten families will not eat a single meal together this week. Taking time to plan balanced meals can help nourish yourself and your family, keeping everyone fueled for the busy days and nights ahead.
Here are some tips to make eating together on-the-go a little easier:
- Pack simple snacks. If you know you have a busy night ahead, bring a cooler stocked with snacks like yogurt, nuts, cheese sticks, fruit, veggies, muffins, or chocolate milk. Try this apple dip for a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
- Focus on quick meals. Pack easy, balanced meals like sandwiches filled with veggies, low-sodium turkey and cheese. Another option that’s easy to transport is a chilled pasta salad with chicken, veggies, and parmesan cheese. Check out more recipe ideas here.
- Review the menu. If packing meals and snacks is not an option, check nearby restaurants ahead of time to identify the healthier choices. Many restaurants offer nutritious items such as yogurt parfaits, grilled sandwiches, and salads.
- Pro Tip: Swap soda or tea for low-fat milk to complete the meal.
- Scout out a place to eat. No matter if your meal is packed or picked up, make it a point to sit down and eat together as a family. Picnic tables, parks and rest stops can make a convenient place to enjoy your meal on-the-go.
- Avoid distractions. Make mealtime about eating and conversations. Avoid distractions by placing cell phones on silent and putting all electronics away and out of sight.
Remember to fill your plates with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Pair with dairy to round out the meal, and get three of the four most commonly missing nutrients in Americans’ diets – calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Plus, a serving of milk, yogurt, or cheese provides high-quality protein, which can help keep you full between meals. A little planning and prep can help your family eat healthy meals together during their busy, on-the-go life.
This October join The Dairy Alliance in their Eat Together, Eat Better with Real Dairy Campaign. Learn more about the benefits of eating together, how to plan and prep for nutritious family meals, and find quick and easy recipes by following us on social media:
Felicia Hazlegrove is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in the Nashville area, with a passion for food and healthy living. She enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and staying active. On her blog, The Brave Bite, Felicia shares recipes and tips to make living healthier as simple as possible. Connect with her on social media through Facebook and Instagram.