By Alexa Joy Sherman
You probably know that sitting down to eat with your family is important for a host of reasons—and here’s another: A review of 17 studies published in a recent issue of Pediatrics found that children who share family meals three or more times a week are more likely to be in a normal weight range and have healthier dietary and eating patterns than those who share fewer than three family meals. If schedules, food preferences or other factors seem like insurmountable barriers, take note of these tips from Eileen Behan, RD, a nutritionist in Exeter, N.H., and author of For the Love of Food—The Diet That Works (lulu.com, 2011) and The Baby Food Bible (Ballantine Books, 2008):
Cook big on the weekend That way, you’ve got plenty of food to simply heat and serve during the week. Dishes like lasagna, soup, and casseroles are all great choices, since they reheat well.
Buy something premade Rotisserie chickens or even fast-food sandwiches or burgers on the way home always work—just balance them out with a fruit plate and frozen or fresh vegetables (always have a fruit, vegetable or both at every meal).
Stock up on basics Keep ingredients for “emergency meals” on hand: eggs for a quick omelet; frozen meat, poultry or fish; and an assortment of canned, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
Get everyone involved Meal prep doesn’t have to fall on you alone. Ask your toddler to vote on his favorite fruits and vegetables, and even have them help with simple prep work like setting the table or tearing salad greens.
Try family breakfast If you can’t have lunch or dinner together, eat your morning meal together instead. No need to get elaborate: Scrambled eggs or a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit work just fine.