By Alexa Joy Sherman
You probably know that sitting down for family meals is important for a host of reasons—and here’s another: A review of 17 studies published in the June 2012 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.
How to have more family meals
If schedules, food preferences or other factors seem like insurmountable barriers to family meals, 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 family meals on the weekend so you can just heat them up and serve them during the week.
- Buy something premade—a rotisserie chicken or even fast-food sandwiches or burgers on the way home from work—and then balance it out with a fruit plate and frozen or fresh vegetables (always have a fruit, vegetable or both at every meal).
- Keep ingredients for “emergency family meals” on hand: eggs for a quick omelet; frozen meat, poultry or fish; and an assortment of canned, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Involve the whole family in meal planning, asking little ones to vote on their favorite fruits and vegetables, and even have them help with the preparation if they’re old enough.
- At family meals, always serve something you know even picky eaters will go for (e.g., bread and butter or pasta and cheese). If you know the vegetable won’t be popular, put out a bunch of grapes or a bowl of sliced fruit as well.
- If you can’t have lunch or dinner together, start off your day with a family breakfast meal—even if it’s just scrambled eggs or a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit.