Family dinner isn’t just about sharing a nutritious meal; it’s a beneficial way to teach kids healthy habits that will stick with them for a lifetime.
Benefits of family dinners
- Connecting with your kids. Family dinners are an important time to connect and talk with family members about their day.
“It is important for kids to be able to share about their day as well as to learn how to listen to others,” said Jenita Lyons, manager with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness.
- Unplugging from the phone and television. Make the dinner table a “no phone or TV zone.” Create a designated place for everyone to leave their devices (such as a basket in another room) until dinner is finished and cleaned up. This habit emphasizes mindfulness while eating and participating in conversation.
- Eating healthier and learning about nutrition. Shared family meals contribute to the nutritional health of the whole family, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kids learn the importance of a balanced diet, which includes nutritious foods to keep their bodies healthy and strong. These should include lean protein (chicken, fish, beans), fruit, vegetables and whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat roll). In addition, kids who have family meals three or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range and less likely to engage in disordered eating than those who share fewer than three family meals together.
- Achieving better grades. Kids who share family dinners get better grades. Better nutrition provides better mental clarity and focus.
- Making wise choices. Family dinners provide kids with the knowledge to make wise food choices to keep their body healthy. It also gives them the confidence to make other wise choices, such as resisting alcohol and drugs.
Think your family’s schedule is too busy for family dinners? The convenience of a drive-through may be tempting, but with a little planning and lowering of expectations, regular family dinners are doable.
Join us for an upcoming event
Bytes and Bites
Thursday, June 7 • 6 to 8 p.m.
Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Shelbyville
150 Frankfort Road
- Enjoy a healthy dinner with your preteens or teens and conversation with health professionals who will discuss how technology and social media affect children. You’ll receive valuable information and tips for keeping children safe online.
Fruit and Boot Camp
Food • Fitness • Family
July 17 and 24
Norton Children’s Medical Center
4910 Chamberlain Lane
July 19 and 26
Shively Community Center
1902 Park Road
- Join us for this two-part series designed to teach you and your school-age children how to eat right and stay active together!
Making family dinners doable
- Begin by setting a goal of having family dinners twice a week. Once achieved, aim for three.
- Keep it simple. Focus on lean protein (chicken, fish, beans), a vegetable, a fruit and a whole grain (brown rice, whole-wheat roll). One easy way to learn how much and what to eat is to think of what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch or dinner and picture it on a plate.
- Have kids try new foods and textures. Try spiraling a cucumber into “noodles,” adding chopped watermelon, a little lime juice, feta cheese and fresh mint for a fun summertime salad.
- Create a dinner bar. Dinner bars make life with picky eaters easier. Set the food choices on the counter, and let each family member prepare their own plate. A few suggestions are a taco bar, baked potato bar or salad bar.
- Use a slow cooker. At least once a week, cook your favorite dinner or try a new recipe in a slow cooker. There’s nothing like walking through the door and smelling a home-cooked meal already prepared for your family!
- Use grocery store conveniences. Many stores now offer online ordering and curbside pick-up. Some stores also offer meal prep kits to make dinner easy. Simply assemble the ingredients and cook. The planning, chopping and measuring are already done.
- Let each family member choose a menu for dinner. Kids can learn how to make a nutritious and balanced plate by choosing a lean protein, veggie, fruit and whole grain. They are more likely to eat it when they help make decisions about the meal.
- Let kids learn how to prepare food. Age permitting, have the kids assist in meal preparation. Kids who learn how to prepare and cook foods while they are younger have healthier eating habits as adults.
- Subscribe to websites and organizations that promote family dinner and healthy eating. The Family Dinner Project and ChopChop Magazine are great free resources providing healthy recipes and tips for families. The Family Dinner Project provides ideas to make dinnertime fun, and ChopChop offers kid-friendly healthy recipes.
- Order pizza with veggies and share together with a salad. Yes, this counts as family dinner!
“The bottom line is, family dinners are about what is being learned,” Lyons said.