Between work, school and extra activities, days go by quickly for many Florida families. Stop a moment and think, “When was the last time the whole family sat down and ate a healthy meal together?” If you can’t remember, you’re not alone. Just one quarter of today’s families have regular dinners together. You can help change that statistic by making family meals a priority in your daily lives.
According to a Rutgers University research study, 40 percent of the average family food budget is spent eating out, an activity that is not typically experienced together. This results in many missed opportunities for families to eat healthier foods and build stronger relationships.
In addition, research shows family meal times promote much healthier eating habits. It gives families valuable time to talk, listen and build stronger bonds—and the benefits of family meals can have lasting effects. Studies show:
- Shared family meals are more likely to provide better nourishment – which leads to better overall health.
- Kids who regularly eat meals with their families are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
- Teens who take part in regular family meals are less likely to start unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking alcohol, and are more likely to have healthier diets as adults.
- Kids and teens that eat with family at mealtimes are better adjusted, and experience better grades and higher self-esteem, according to a Harvard University study.
Family meal times also create the opportunity to teach kids about portion control, simple cooking skills and fun in trying new foods.
Here are a few tips to ensure your family eats together on a regular basis:
- Commit to a mealtime that works for everyone.
- Plan ahead and choose your foods together.
- Get kids and teens involved in making meals.
- On busy days, keep meals simple so you’ll have more time to be together.
- Make family mealtimes a no cell phone/game device/TV time.
- Keep the conversation positive. Ask your kids to tell you about their day and share with them about yours. Let everyone have a chance to talk.
Now is the time to start having meals together as often as you can to maintain your family’s good health. Sharing this information with your children and other family members can encourage them to help with meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking, and underscore the importance of eating together. Planning for family meals together is a simple, yet effective way to improve your whole family’s health and well-being.
To check nutrition content and track foods you eat, log on to the SuperTracker, created by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Florida Department of Health has launched a website dedicated to the promotion of better overall health for Floridians through achieving their healthiest weight. Go to www.healthiestweightflorida.com for more information.