As we get back to school and life gets busy, it is easy to let family meals slip in importance. Study after study shows, however, that on multiple factors, having family meals together is the single most important thing we can do for our kids’ health.
Benefits of Family Meals
- Physical Health- According to the American Association of Pediatrics, families who eat 3 or more family meals together per week, reduce their odds for being overweight by 12% and eating unhealthy foods by 20%.
- Academia- Family meals and the dinner conversations that accompany them increase children’s vocabulary and ability to produce and understand stories.
- Psychological- Family meals give children a place to be heard and understood.
- By the teenage years, teens who eat dinner together report lower teen pregnancy rates, depression, and eating disorders.
On the side of mom, however, it is difficult to get healthy meals on the table every night with overwhelmed schedules when it is much easier to pick up fast food! One of the priorities of Mom’s Priority is healthy families, so here are some family meal ideas to help you when you get overwhelmed:
- Keep it simple. A meat, two veggies, and a starch work well for our family many nights. We are not nutritional experts, but simple foods with simple ingredients work well when time is limited.
- Planning meals in advance- This is so important to me! There is nothing more frustrating than going to the fridge, looking for an ingredient, and not finding it. When we plan in advance, we save money AND we have what we need when a recipe calls for it! I am old-fashioned, so I prefer to print a monthly calendar and write meals for each day. I try to schedule foods based on what activities we have that day, as well as store sales. Additionally, I try to have variety throughout each week. For example, one night is vegetarian, one night is steak, soup, fish, chicken, etc. We try to keep it varied, even with picky eaters!
- Freezer meals are key! Preparing enough for two meals or more each time you cook helps you always have food on hand for busy nights. It also frees up your kitchen (and keeps it clean) on the nights you don’t have to cook! A few favorites of mine include baked ziti, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, chicken enchiladas, and poppy seed chicken. I always like to freeze leftover soup, even if it is just enough for one. Soup makes a great lunch! For more freezer meal ideas, check out our page Freezer Meals.
- Slow cooker meals are helpful on busy nights, and they make the house smell like you have been cooking all day! A crock pot is a great investment, and will last you for years to come. Simply put the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning, turn it on, and let it cook all day. A few of our favorites are easy chicken and dumplings and French dip sandwiches.
- Use paper products if you need to! You are still feeding your family a healthy meal, avoiding fast food, and sitting down at the table together.
Eating dinner as a family is probably one of the most difficult challenges of being a mom in today’s society! Whether you or your spouse travels for work, commutes, or just works hard and long hours, finding time to eat as a family is a challenge. Add in the kids’ activities that always seem to occur right around dinner time, and you have a big challenge! We know, for sure! But, the rewards are in it, for our families and for our kids’ futures. We’ll keep sharing new ideas on Mom’s Priority, and hope you will too, so we can all keep our priorities!