Make Family Meals Matter
It’s a tradition at HealthBarn USA to celebrate the children’s achievement at the end of each season with a family meal — it serves as a gentle reminder about its important regardless of our busy lives and leaves us all smiling! Everyone comes together—minus the TV, the smartphones, and any other distractions—for a family meal. That’s right mom and dad, put the iPhones down, too! Now, when you imagine a family meal you might picture the Cleavers sitting down at the table with perfectly placed linen napkins wearing their Sunday best as the steam rises off the green bean casserole, but, what exactly is it that makes a family meal healthy? More vegetables? Leaner protein? Whole grains? Fresh ingredients? Yes! – all of these contribute to a healthy meal, but it’s not just about what is on the plate. It’s also what happens at the table and the communication among family members that matters most.
The time of the day doesn’t matter, nor does the location, so your family meal can be at breakfast if it can’t be at dinner. The idea is that it’s important to sit down at meals with the people who are home to talk about the day. Family meals are about connecting and communicating with your loved ones. When everyone is truly present and engaged as a family, wonderful things take place for everyone who participates in this invaluable ritual.
Benefits of a Family Meal for Kids (and the grown-ups who love them!):
Kids who sit down to family meals on a daily basis are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco;
- Girls, in particular are less likely to develop eating disorders like anorexia if they eat regularly with their families;
- Parents who do family meals are more in tune with what’s happening at a child’s school, with their friends, or with whatever may be important to a child;
- Adults and children alike generally ate more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods at a family meal;
- Better control of the portion sizes;
- Kids who have dinner with their families are less likely to report high levels of stress (how cool is that?)
Need a fresh start? Create meal-time rules by
engaging the whole family (add your own, too!):
Launch it with a fun theme: FRIDAY NIGHT PIZZA PARTY!
T.G.I.F.! It’s the end of the work and school week, and time to settle into the weekend. Forget ordering out, put down the DiGiorno, and don’t bother Domino’s either. You’ve eaten great all week, now lets continue all the effort with a family pizza party (friend’s are invited too!). It’s not just any pizza, it’s HealthBarn USA’s whole wheat pizza recipe so it’s fun and healthy. During the Friday Night Pizza Party you can make your very own personalized pizza, all you have to do is provide the nutritious dough and toppings such as broccoli, cheese, olives, capers, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, tomato sauce, fresh herbs and more!
At the Barn, we like to make our pizza challenges fun. There are four winners in our delectable competition. The categories are:
1) Best Tasting
2) Most Creative
3) Most Colorful (that is, most veggies)
4) Best Teamwork.
You can make your own categories too! At the end, everyone wins this challenge by loading up on vegetables, good food, and a lot of laughs and fun! Pizza is the ultimate ice breaker that children and adults of all ages can’t resist!
What’s your go-to hands-on family meal? Share a favorite memory with us.
– Stacey Antine, MS, RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, director, HealthBarn Foundation, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA.