The back-to-school madness can make getting together for dinner challenging. But the final meal of the day is about much more than rounding out your nutritional requirements. It's a time when families come back together, regroup, catch up and talk about their day. The family dinner table also provides a place for parents and older children to model good eating habits and table manners for younger children.
Some studies suggest that children who eat meals with their parents have healthier eating habits than those who don't. Families that eat together at home tend to consume less fast food and more fruits and vegetables, and preparing meals at home gives parents control over both the quality and quantity of food.
With childhood obesity on the rise in the United States, many experts also recommend that parents:
- Serve sensible portion sizes so kids know that "supersized" isn't normal.
- Help kids understand how to eat until they are comfortably satisfied, but not full.
- Let children serve themselves as early as age 5 so they begin to regulate portions themselves.
- Don't pressure kids to clear their plates; encourage them to judge fullness by physical rather than visual cues.
Here are a few ideas for helping make those dinners happen:
- Allow each family member to choose the menu on a regular rotation.
- "Have family members look through cookbooks (online or in print) and choose a few new recipes to try.
- Learn to cook with a pressure cooker or slow cooker to make meal prep easier on everyone's schedule. You'll return at the end of the day to a dinner that's ready to serve.
- Cook several meals over the weekend and refrigerate or freeze them to be reheated later during the week.
- Mix prepared and homemade foods to save time and still provide complete nutrition at each meal.
- Turn off the phone, television and other distractions. Play soothing music to set the mood if you like!
Now, get cooking with some simple suppers like these:
Get more Back to School
tips and find lots more great recipes in our Family-Friendly
and Cooking with Kids
What is your family's favorite weeknight meal?