Although “Mom, What’s for Dinner?” isn’t music to my ears, research clearly points to the importance of family meals.Many studies suggest family mealtime not only creates good memories, but also offers many other important health benefits.

In a nutshell, here are some of the great benefits your kids when you eat together as a family:
• Lower risk of being overweight
• Less unhealthful foods eaten
• Less risk of disordered eating (such as skipping meals, binging, purging, using diet pills or fasting)
• Eating more fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods and whole grains
• Lower risk of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use
• Life skills: necessary tools to prepare meals and make healthy food choices when eating away from home, going to college or moving away.

What parent doesn’t want all of these benefits for their kids?

The challenge is how do we make family meals happen when the statistics show there are more families with both parents working full-time, more single-parent households, and increasing extracurricular activities for kids?

In surveying Registered Dietitians for the 400 Moms book, 74% of Nutrition Experts reported serving dinner at home 6 or 7 nights per week. These are busy, working moms who have found strategies that work for their families to get dinner on the table at home most of the time. Many of their strategies are included in the 400 Moms Book!

Most of the studies indicate that 5 or more meals together seems to be the key to achieving the benefits I mentioned above. So the good news is, it doesn’t have to be every meal and it doesn’t have to be the dinner meal that families spend together. It might be breakfast on a few weekday mornings or on weekends, a few dinners during the week and maybe a lunch or two on the weekend.

Sunday breakfast is one of our favorite meals to share together, along with Sunday dinner. The most important part is carving out those meals that work for your family and making them just as important as work and kids’ activities.
Recipe for Family Meal Success
Fruits & Vegetables stocked in the refrigerator, freezer and cupboard
Frozen entrees stocked in freezer

1. Make a Shopping list with staples that can be printed and used weekly
2. Shop at least once/week
3. Put family meals on the calendar based on the week’s schedule of events. For example,
• Saturday Lunch, Sunday Breakfast, Sunday Dinner, Wednesday Dinner, Thursday Dinner
4. Create a menu for the home dinners. It doesn’t have to have all the details. For example,
• Sunday: Chicken, Wednesday: Pasta, Thursday: Left-overs
That way the foods you need are sure to get on your grocery list. You can decide later what specifically to prepare, but you’ve got the main ingredients in your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer.
5. Keep It Simple. Sometimes people assume meals that are fast to make are less healthy than the meal that takes lots of time and preparation. Not so! However, be sure to use my Healthy Plate model (1/2 the plate fruits & veggies) when deciding what to serve along with the entrée.