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Coming together at the end of the day for delicious, nutritious dinner is good for the body, mind and spirit. Mealtimes are an opportunity to connect with your children and partner, and to relax after a hectic day. Eating together as a family also helps promote better eating habits and healthy weights.
But it’s understandable that committing to a nightly sit-down dinner can seem like a stretch in an already packed schedule. Meetings run long, someone always has practice, and sometimes you may just feel too tired to prepare an elaborate meal. But mealtimes can be special family times when you take the stress and pressure off with a few simple tips.
Family calendars are packed with practices, games, meetings or lessons. Take a look at your calendar and find nights when it makes sense to have a relaxing dinner together. Eating together every night may not be realistic for your family, and that’s okay. Commit to eating together more nights than not, and your family will still see the benefits of family mealtime.
Plan Easy, Healthy Meals Everyone Enjoys
Spending a few minutes on Sunday planning what meals you can make takes the stress out of the age-old question “What’s for dinner?” Plan simple meals that are easy for you to shop for and prepare. Pull the crockpot out of the cabinet or dust off some tried-and-true recipes the family loves. If the idea of a from-scratch dish is overwhelming, find pre-made shortcuts and commit to something semi-homemade. Planning ahead can help you get a healthy meal on the table without a side of stress.
No Devices Allowed
Pass around a basket for all electronics if you have to (even you, Mom and Dad). No devices at the dinner table keeps everyone from sneaking sideways glances at their screens — and allows you to be present in the moment. Let your devices recharge in the corner while you recharge with your loved ones.
Connect Over Conversation
The dinner table is the perfect place to ask open-ended questions, learn about your child’s day and share your stories from work or school. Make it fun with games: Play two truths and a lie, 20 questions or “would you rather…” for a night full of memories and laughter.
Have Everyone Pitch In
Teach responsibility (and make it easier on yourself) by having everyone participate in mealtimes. Have one child set the table and put another in charge of clean up. Appoint a sous-chef to help prepare the meal and tap someone to be the night’s “server” to help carry plates, drinks and dishes to and from the table.
Try Something New
Dinner doesn’t have to happen around the dining room table. Head to the park or a picnic table in your backyard for dinner “al fresco.” When weather turns cold, throw a blanket on the floor, light a fire and have an indoor picnic. Or, make use out of that formal dining room. Light candles and use china for a “formal” dinner, just for fun.
A Stronger, Happier and Healthier Family
It’s hard to believe that something as simple as eating together can offer so many benefits to your family. Commit to making mealtimes a priority in your house to see — and feel — the power of this ritual for yourself.