The ritual of the family dinner table has long been a familiar scene of American life. Recent studies have shown, however, that there are many health benefits, both physical and mental, for a family that dines together more at least three nights a week. It has been demonstrated that children in such families have a lower rate of smoking and underage drinking. The average overall diet of these families contain 30% lower rates of fat and include 3 to 4 more servings of fruit and vegetables per week. With today’s busy family lifestyle, making an effort to share a meal together may seem like quite a chore, but the benefits for both body and soul pay off in healthy dividends.
While it may seem tempting to grab a fast food meal between errands or on the way home from work, there are many quick and easy ways to create healthier and less expensive meals at home. For instance, many of today’s crock pots and slow cookers have timer settings. With minimal preparation a hot meal can be waiting for your family when you get in from your busy day. There are whole cook books and web sites devoted specifically to this type of cooking. If time is of the essences this is an excellent solution.
Spending a few hours on the weekend to prepare meals for the coming busy week can lighten the load in working families. Ingredients can be pre-mixed and ready for a casserole or stir fry. Add rice or potatoes and you have a meal in less than 30 minutes.
Having the kids in the family help with the meal preparation can cut down on the time it takes and also provide an opportunity for interaction. Even very young children can learn to measure ingredients and stir pots. As the children learn, they can become cooks in their own right and even prepare their own concoctions. Being able to complete a task such as preparing and serving family meal teaches them a valuable skill, while instilling confidence in their own ability. Researching recipes and shopping for ingredients makes them even more appreciative of the time and resources it takes to care for a family.
Healthy habits formed in childhood can serve a person for a lifetime. Making the effort to spend time together a family around the dinner table may seem a Herculean task in these busy times, but by making family dinner time a non-negotiable priority, parents are giving their child the gift of a healthy start in life.