As we leave the holidays and get back to the hectic life of school, work, and the ever hated list of resolutions, hopefully the one resolution we can keep is family meal time. Dinner as we may remember was traditionally at 6:00 pm when dad got off at 5:00 and mom was home helping the children with homework and making dinner. No longer is that the case. Mom is working, dad is working, and the kids have a more hectic schedule than the parents! With ball practice, dance class, PTA and more, time to eat is rare. Studies show that 47% of our time is spent eating away from home. So how do you get back to the table?
The table is relative. It can be a bench at the football field before a game or the SUV with a picnic dinner of soup and sandwiches before dance lessons. Meal time is not an hour, but should be thought of as an event, and worked into the other parts of the day. Meals can be eaten in 20 minutes, less time than a sit com, so use that to your advantage. When you first begin having meals together it may be a little quiet, but after a routine begins the talk will grow, so don’t give up. Turn off the television, serve the meal and share a bit about your day or what happened in school. Even try setting a timer when you begin eating. Often times it will ring before the conversations end. If the evenings are still too crazy, try breakfast. It may be a better time for your family as everyone is just waking up and getting started. Having meals as a family is the important goal not the length or span of time.
There is magic in a family meal! Share with someone you love and care for or who cares for you the gift of eating as a family. Dr. G.K. Fritz stated in an editor’s commentary, “…but in my heart I believe that there is no preventative approach to improving child mental health better than regular family dinners.” Families may not resemble the Cleaver Family any longer, but it doesn’t matter. The caregiver of the household can serve up meals for everyone in the home together and begin to notice the changes. One last note for success, keep the phones in the other room… this is talking and eating with family time!
To help make family meal time a greater success, the Dairy & Nutrition Council has developed an interactive DVD, Back to the Table, that provides recipes, demonstrations, menus and shopping lists to help make meal planning, cooking and the dinner hour fun for everyone! If you are interested in more information about the Back to the Table DVD visit our website www.WinnersDrinkMilk.com.