Work, school, and other responsibilities can make it challenging for families to spend mealtime together. While many of you and your families are home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and it may seem like you are together all the time, prioritizing sharing meals with loved ones in your home can have benefits.
The Benefits of Sharing Family Meals
- Better family relationships. Mealtime provides an opportunity for the whole family to be together. Use your time together to talk about the day’s events, catch up, and simply spend time with each other.
- Everyone eats healthier meals. When families share a meal, they tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, fewer fried foods and snacks, and drink less soda. Children who eat family meals are also less likely to become overweight or obese.
- Improved grades in school. Studies have proven that there’s a link between family dinners and academic performance.
- Less stress and tension at home. If you have a demanding job, finding time to eat with your family is a good way to reduce work-related stress and may relieve family tension.
Tips for Planning Family Meals
If you aren’t regularly eating together as a family, start small and choose a few meals each week – breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Which meal you choose isn’t important; your goal is to carve out quality time to spend together.
- Keep it simple. Family meals don't have to be elaborate. Stick to recipes that you are comfortable with that your family enjoys.
- Get the family involved. Let kids help plan for meals, including creating shopping lists, cooking, setting the table, and helping clean up.
- Make it enjoyable. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort, and support. Leave the serious discussions for another time.
- Make it screen-free. Agree that mealtime is for listening and sharing the day’s stories. Leave phones on mute and out of reach.
Tools to Help You Make Healthier Family Meals
The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed The MyPlate Plan to help you make healthier food choices. The MyPlate plan is available as both a website and as a mobile application. For those of you with children, the Choose My Plate website includes informational fact sheets, videos, and fun family activities to help you teach your kids about healthy eating.