submitted by Danielle Labonte, MAN, RD,
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
A family meal is simply eating together, with others. This includes immediate family members like parents/caregivers, children or siblings, friends, neighbours or co-workers. Eating meals together has benefits that include and go beyond healthy eating. For children and youth, family meals help them:
- Make healthier food choices, like eating more vegetables and fruit, and having fewer sugar sweetened beverages
- Perform better in school
- Avoid high risk activities like substance use and smoking
- Build and maintain close family relationships
- Practice social skills
Families often have busy schedules that can take away from family meal time. As children get older, the number of meals families eat together tends to decline. To help make family meals more of a priority, set realistic goals. If you aren’t eating together as a family currently, try to eat together once a week to start. Schedule time for family meals, but be flexible with time and location. For example, if the whole family is at the soccer field for the day, have a picnic together between games. Another tip is to involve the whole family with meals. Children of all ages can help with meal planning, preparation and clean-up. Finally, keep the focus on family by removing distractions like screens, toys and books. This will help everyone to focus on the foods and social experience of meal times.
For more information, visit www.healthunit.org, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter or call 1-800-660-5853.