Ideas to Help Make that Family Dinner Routine a Reality
My dining room table is often covered in icing bags, play-dough creations and piles of papers that glare at me from every corner of the room, but family dinner time is sacred in this house. It's our one time of the day to sit down together and acknowledge the fact that three kids who always around each other can (at least some of the time) make through at least 30 minutes of sitting near each other without aggravating each other to no end.
Once a week (or less since we've decided to binge watch lost as a family) the hubs and I will break from family dinner and eat our dinner upstairs while watching "grown-up" TV. This is a close a we get to date night these days, so I have no problem giving up the occasional family dinner for it. The kids enjoy it too, as it gives them free reign to make every face they can muster at each other while were not watching.
Our family dinner routine works for us, but it took years of easing the kids into it since our timing was constantly changing in the past due to the hubs second and third shifts. If you are having trouble getting your family to sit down and have a meal together, Whole Foods Market has put together some great tips.
It’s More than a Meal
Preparing meals at home gives parents control over both the quality and quantity of food and provides a place for parents and older children to model good eating habits for younger children.
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 five 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.
Get Them Engaged
The final meal of the day is about much more than rounding out your nutritional requirements. Dinner is a time (maybe the only time) to come together, catch up and talk about the day, so get the whole family invested before they even pick up their forks.
- Allow each family member to choose the menu on a regular rotation.
- Have family members check out recipes in cookbooks or online and choose a few new recipes or foods they want to try.
- Set a specific time for dinner and stick to it on family dinner nights. This way, people aren’t making calls, sending just one more email or running a quick errand when dinner is ready.
- Have one of the kids set the table and encourage creativity by adding cloth napkins, place-mats, name cards or flowers.
- Turn off the television and other distractions. And please, no phones or tablets at the table. (That includes adults too!)
What about the time is takes to make a wholesome dinner? Here are some shortcuts:
- Buy some. Make some. Mix prepared and homemade foods to save time and still provide complete nutrition at each meal. Use frozen brown rice with a stir-fry. Rely on canned beans for tacos and salads. Check out our prepared soups for fresh warm meals. Or buy a roasted chicken for burritos, salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes.
- Kiss the cooker. Learn to cook with a slow cooker, and you'll return at the end of the day to a dinner that's ready to serve. Here’s a collection of our favorite slow cooker recipes.
- Big batch cooking. Cook several meals or staple ingredients such as quinoa, beans, ground beef or chicken during the weekend and refrigerate or freeze them to be reheated later during the week. Check out this blog post for recipe ideas for big batch cooking and this How to Batch Cook and Freeze video.
The key to successfully making dinner with limited time and still drawing the whole family to the table is choosing a recipe that’s short on steps but big on flavor. Checking out these tasty dishes, and answer the “what’s for dinner” question with ease.
Do you feel like family dinner time is a success in your house or are you eager to put some of these tips into action?