By Amanda Rohwedder. Adapted from the original Family Foundations article.
Food makes up such a large part of a family’s routine, lifestyle, and culture. Key developmental milestones happen at mealtime, as well as an opportunity for family bonding. It is when a husband and wife can look each other in the eye, a toddler discovers how much he loves broccoli, or a teen can talk through challenges in making new friends. Research around family dinners has shown benefits for both physical and mental health. Some notable results are lower rates of obesity, better cardiovascular health in teens, stronger academic performance, lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders, as well as higher self-esteem and resilience.
At the fast pace in which we live, preparing meals for our family can become another chore to cross off our growing to-do lists. However, let us challenge ourselves to consider meals as more of a family bonding activity than another hurried task – and prioritize it as such. While it may be unrealistic to expect your family to eat every meal together, decide when it makes the most sense to come together as a family. Is it breakfast and starting your day around the table, or is it dinner to process the day together before bedtime routines? Maybe you can only make that happen one weeknight per week and on Sundays. Whatever you decide, be willing to make sacrifices to protect and keep that time sacred. It seems a missed opportunity to treat mealtime as anything less.
Creating healthy food habits is an important role of parenting but can prove frustrating and exhausting. Remember that one trip through the drive-through does not negate every other healthful choice that you made. The key is to be more consistent with positive lifestyle habits than less beneficial ones. Post your family’s health commitments in a high traffic area of the home. Talk about food as a way to fuel the body instead of using it as a reward or punishment. Committing to a healthy lifestyle as a family is much more effective than one member going it alone (hello built-in accountability!).
A powerful way to create healthy attitudes toward food is to involve your kids in meal prep as age appropriate. Younger ages can identify colors and ingredients as you cook, elementary age can measure (great for math skills too!) and mix ingredients together, teenagers can assist with chopping. Another way to empower your children is offering choices within a single meal. Ideas to do this are a yogurt parfait station for breakfast (think plain or vanilla Greek yogurt with granola, sliced bananas, berries, chia seeds, chocolate chips, and maple syrup), or a taco bar for dinner (think corn tortillas, grilled chicken, ground beef, shredded lettuce, sliced peppers and onion, cheese, salsa, avocados, and cilantro). More ways to do this are with pizza toppings, salad bowls, and omelets.
One of the most impactful places where you parent is around the table. Don’t overlook this daily opportunity to connect as a family over a home cooked meal, teach life lessons, and make lasting memories. Here’s to reclaiming the tradition of family mealtime!
Fertility Science Institute offers Lifestyle resources, classes and coaching sessions to help with nutrition, wellness and fertility. In a partnership with Amanda Rohwedder, we have a series of selfpaced healthy cooking classes which can be found on our website here. Check them out!
Amanda is a degreed nutritionist, with a B.S. Nutritional Science and M.S. Medical Science with a concentration in Women’s Health. She founded Temple and Table as a way to nourish our culture by drawing a connection between physical and spiritual health. For more information, visit templeandtable.com.