With the school year well underway, parents and children are settling into routines that hopefully work best for the entire family. Families who plan to spend quality time together can enhance that time with the addition regular mealtime several times per week. Is it really that important to have meals together, you may ask? Consider the following:
Children who participate in consistent family mealtimes:
*East an overall healthier diet
*Consumer more fruits and vegetables
*Maintain healthy body weights
*Perform better academically
*Develop larger vocabularies
These same children/youth are also less likely to:
*Engage in risky behaviors including tobacco, drug, and alcohol use
*Struggle with eating disorders
*Experience depression or low self-esteem
Parents who engage in family mealtimes:
*Have overall healthier diets
*Enjoy strengthened family bonds
*Spend less money on food by eating at home more frequently
*Are able to role model healthy eating habits
September happens to be Family Mealtime month so go ahead and try a few of the following ideas/suggestions for families to make the most of the experience together as a family each week.
- Plan meals ahead of time.
- Schedule a set time for meals to be eaten together.
- Involve all family members in the meal planning, preparation and clean-up.
- Unplug your dinner- no television, phones, or other devices allowed!
- Keep conversation at family meals positive.
Perhaps you found yourself getting stuck with the first suggestion here—Meal planning. Sounds like work, right? What if there was a resource for not just menu planning but also suggestions for food and recipes in one easily accessible spot?
USU Extension’s SNAP-Ed program, known as Utah Food $ense, has created just such a resource in a booklet focused solely on family mealtime: Live Well Utah/Family Mealtime Edition. This information-filled colorful booklet has tips for involving family members according to age, suggested menus, including recipes, for three meals per day for a week including, desserts (like a Strawberry Sorbet). An on-line version of the booklet is available from https://extension.usu.edu/foodsense/ou-files/FamilyMealtimesCookbook-OY-May2017-Online.pdf or contact your local USU Extension Office for a copy.
If you would like more ideas on healthy eating, menu planning, shopping with a list, and sticking to a budget, your Extension Office has a Nutrition Education Assistant ready to offer individual assistance, schedule group classes or inform you of when classes will be offered through your local Extension program.
Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to email@example.com or call 435-586-8132.