Have you tried to sit down to a family dinner, only to have it be a horrible experience? Cooking chaos, kids crying, picky eaters and a huge mess does not have to be the norm at dinner time. I wanted to share a few tips for a successful family dinner because it is a family activity that I am incredibly passionate about. There have been numerous studies that have shown the benefits of families eating dinner together and getting kids started young will make things easier!
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The Family Dinner Tradition
Growing up, family dinner was very important in my house. My dad didn’t get home til after 6 but we always sat down to eat dinner together. There were no phones, books or music allowed during the family dinner. You ate and you talked to your family.
Fast forward 30 years and now I am just as adamant about the sanctity of the family dinner as my parents were. My kids know that they cannot answer the phone or have their music playing while we eat. The hardest one to convert to the family dinner rules was actually my husband. During March Madness we seriously fought like cats and dogs about turning off the TV to eat dinner! Then we started taping the games to watch AFTER dinner. Peace and harmony as a result of technology. It is a beautiful thing.
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Tips for Families Eating Dinner Together
I firmly believe that the key to staying connected with your family is through the family dinner. If you are thinking your family needs to reconnect a little bit, here are a few of my tips for families eating dinner together that will make it more enjoyable for everyone.
Make up a menu for meals you can create quickly. Keep your pantry stocked with the ingredients you need for those meals. No worrying last minute about what you are going to eat. Just look at the list and pull out the ingredients. The less stressed YOU are about making dinner, the more enjoyable the experience will be for everyone. Invest in a Magnetic Weekly Meal Planner to put on your refrigerator. It will keep your menu plan organized and at your finger tips.
Even the smallest of children can help prepare the family dinner. My kid’s jobs, when they were small, included things like snapping green beans and setting the table. Start your kids off at a young age and the concept of a family dinner will be deeply ingrained by the time they move out on their own. They also learn more about where their food comes from, which is a lesson more people need to understand!
Set a goal:
If you NEVER eat together as a family, try to aim for just 2 or three days a week where you sit down to a family dinner together. Even just sitting down a few days a week is better than nothing! Work up to every other day as you get the hang of things. Schedules are busy so you may not be able to fit in a family dinner every night. However, the more often you do it, the better. And remember, sometimes family dinner can be pancakes and fruit!
Learn to use your slow cooker!
A slow cooker is a perfect way to enjoy a family dinner with very little effort on your part. Put things in the slow cooker in the morning and when you get home from work or school just have the kids set the table and sit down to eat! There are many programmable slow cookers on the market that allow you to cook food for only a few hours, even if you have to work all day. Try my Easy Vegetarian Crockpot Chili Recipe if you want a quick and easy meatless slow cooker recipe.
Lay out the rules ahead of time.
Make sure your family knows what to expect. If the phone rings, you do NOT answer it. There are no electronics allowed at the dinner table. You will speak to each other in respectful voices. Okay, this one is hard. I have teenagers and I swear they live to torment each other. But, we are still working on making the family dinner a place where we do NOT argue with each other. It’s a work in progress! The key is to make family dinner all about family and reconnecting.
Serve healthy appetizers:
Sometimes cooking a family dinner might take a little while. Hungry toddlers are CRANKY toddlers. Put out a tray of fruit, veggies, cheese, and crackers to nibble on while you work on preparing your dinner. As long as you put out healthy foods, you shouldn’t worry too much about them ruining their appetite.
Families eating dinner together really helps strengthen their bond and bring them closer to one another. Studies have shown that kids who sit down with their parents to eat dinner do better in school and are less likely to get involved in drugs and alcohol. You will also be more connected with your kids and will have time to actually talk to them about their friends, school, and what sort of things they have been up to lately. The other really big perk to the family dinner is that people eat healthier when they sit down to a meal together!
Have any other tips for families eating dinner together?
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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.