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How Family Meals Make Successful Children — an article on the Smart Living Network
September 24, 2012 at 5:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 1

How Family Meals Make Successful Children


“America’s drug problem is not going to be solved in courtrooms or legislative hearing rooms by judges and politicians. It will be solved in living rooms and dining rooms and across kitchen tables – by parents and families.” - Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

Did you know that September 24th is National Family Day?

"A day to eat dinner with your children" and a delicious reminder to take the time to sit down with your family to celebrate the unique offerings each member brings to the table. This national movement was established back in 2001 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. and the idea behind it was to spread an awareness about the positive effects of a simple shared family meal.

Family meals have been found to help children in the following ways:

  • Reduce the likelihood they'll take part in drug use or violence
  • Improve their nutrition
  • Improve their mealtime manners
  • Improved their grades
  • Improve relationships with their family

According to CASA, when compared to teens who share family dinner 5-7 times each week, children who have less than 3 family dinners per week are: 

  • "Almost four times likelier to use tobacco;
  • More than twice as likely to use alcohol;
  • Two-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana; and
  • Almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future."

Tips for Making Family Dinners Easier

To make the process easier and more enjoyable for all, plan ahead and invite others to help out. Here are a few tips that may help make your mealtimes more fun for the entire family:

  • Take Turns Shopping. Ask your partner to take over grocery shopping once in a while or invite your kids to join you as you explore the produce section.
  • Take Turns with Clean-Up. Have your family take turns setting the table or wash dishes.
  • Draw out the week's meal-plan ahead of time. This can be a fun way to encourage involvement from the entire family by allowing each person to choose one meal for the week, though before your kids are planning out the evening meal of s'mores, you may want to set some ground rules by requiring a protein source and a vegetable at each meal. 
  • Use Meijer's Meal Plans. Check out their weekly menu ideas based on the weekly sales! This option will even save you the trouble of creating that pesky grocery list.
  • Start a Meal-Time Tradition. Once you sit down, ask each person to share the 'roses' and 'thorns' of their day (e.g. the highs and lows) or simply the funniest part of their day.
  • Instill a "Thank-You-Bite" Rule. Each child must take at least one bite to be polite, even if they 'know' they dislike the food. Or you can try having each child take as many 'thank-you bites' as they are old in years (e.g. 2 year old takes 2 bites while your 5 year old takes 5 bites...).

Breakfast Works Too!

If after-school sports or piano lessons have already filled up your Monday evening, why not celebrate with breakfast? For a fast and easy morning meal, whip up a batch of grilled chocolate nut butter and banana sandwiches, crock-pot oatmeal, a beautiful yogurt parfait, or try out one of these recipes with help from Real Simple.

Whether you choose breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I hope you are able to squeeze in a family meal today. In our household, I have already prepped our meal, leaving me zero excuses for skipping out on the celebration. After loading my dutch oven with a turkey breast, sweet potatoes, granny smith apples, onions, celery, and carrots, topping it with fresh rosemary and thyme, all that is left for me to do is add a splash of fresh apple cider and toss it in the oven to roast. Yum! I can't wait for the aroma to fill up our home with such a delicious autumn scent!

For more information on this Nationwide celebration, click here.

Or if you are looking for mealtime ideas, visit the Blog for Family Dinner for a great mix of ideas shared by a group of moms with a passion for family meals.

Does your family find the time to sit down together each week? What tricks or traditions work for you to make meal times more pleasant?

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