My mom would be the first to admit it; cooking was not something she loved, but we ate dinner together as a family most nights. Sunday dinners were a family tradition, my mom would often make a roasted chicken or roast. Now that I have my own family, we still have dinner together, most nights, less elaborate but we still sit at the table dinner. We started this when my daughter was a few weeks old , although she wasn’t able to enjoy the food, she still sat with us at the dinner table. Today, the joy of family dinners is practically nonexistent. Instead its take out, frozen dinners , meals eaten in front of the television, or car rushing to soccer practice. Research suggests that children who eat at least one meal together as a family, eat more vegetables and fruit, are less likely to be picky eaters, perform better in school and have less behaviour problems.
Recently there was a study called “the joy of cooking” written by sociologists from the University of North Carolina, looked at the barriers involved in preparing a family meal; 1). time 2). burdened place on mom 3). food preferences within household 4). skill and 5). cost. While all of these restraints are true today, there are many things that we can do to take the burden off home cooked meals. Here are 5 tips for making family dinners less stressful!
1). Healthy eating does not have to be complicated
You don’t have to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen preparing dinner. A healthy dinner can be sandwiches with vegetables and hummus, quesadillas, soup, or an omelet made with vegetables.
2). Healthy does not equal expensive
According to the study “the joy of cooking” women felt they failed their families if the meal was not made from organic food. I like how fellow dietitian, Abby Langer ,from the Huffington Post, put it” We should focus on what we have not what we don’t have”. In her response to the study, called “family dinners don’t have to be perfect” Langer suggests simple and inexpensive meals such as pasta and canned tuna.
3).Plan Plan Plan
Meal planning will save you time, money , and stress. It takes 30 minutes a week to pull out a paper and look through the pantry and fridge. If you have older kids, allow them to each plan one dinner.
For many it may not be realistic to have dinner every night as a family, especially with all the after school activities. Instead try to plan 1 week night and 1 weekend night such as Sunday night dinner.
4). Share the responsibility
Who says it has to be one persons job to prepare and cook the meals. If there are older kids in the house, get them involved with the food prep or menu planning, get the little ones to stir the salad dressing.
5). It doesn’t always have to be homemade
Once a week, usually Fridays we will order take out but try to follow the same principles in terms of meal composition . i.e include a salad. Because the kids are small we find take out much easier and relatively stress free. The meal is still enjoyed around the table.
I value family meals, in part because of my profession, but most importantly, I enjoy sitting around the table enjoying good food with my family. Plus I get t forget about the next day’s chaotic schedule, even if its only for 30 minutes.
Remember healthy food can be made with simple, fresh, and healthy ingredients. Now put away the cell phones, computers, and turn off the television and enjoy!!