September is national Family Meals Month. With the hectic nature of a new school year, dinner may be the last thing on your mind. You might be interested to know statistics indicate making time for family meals may be one of the most important things you can do for your kids. While research shows family meal time can help promote healthy weight, better grades, happier kids and more positive family interactions, it can be difficult to clear off the table and get everyone to sit down together. While you’re working on schedules for your busy family and thinking of meals that will please the crowd, here are some tips to make family meal time less daunting and more fun.
- Don’t single out dinner. Nighttime can be tough if your kids have activities and you work late, so put the emphasis on a quick and easy breakfast you will all love, like a smoothie made with milk and yogurt. It’s a delicious way to start the day off with key nutrients like protein, calcium and vitamin D and research shows that kids who eat breakfast have better memory, attention and problem solving skills.
- Crown a new chef. There’s no need for you to be the only cook in the kitchen. Let your kids take the lead in cooking one night each week. You will surely be entertained by their menu creations.
- Make it fun. If the stories from school don’t keep the conversation going, there are plenty of games and conversation starters to get the family talking.
- Save time and prep ahead. If you only have 15 minutes for dinner, prepare the meal ahead and use your time to enjoy it. Crock-Pot® meals or one pot wonders can be a saving grace for busy families. Here’s a recipe for veggie lasagna using a slow cooker.
- Team up. If it’s tough to get a meal on the table seven nights a week, share the work with a neighbor or family member. Cook half as often and get the twice the benefit when you take turns preparing the feast. Check out more of our dairy recipes.
Angie Hasemann is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in pediatrics who grew up on a farm and still loves to talk food! Her career has centered around providing practical strategies for busy families to eat healthier and enjoy it. She holds a master of science degree in health communication from Boston University and loves her job at the University of Virginia Health System.