4 ways to bring more fun to the table

Meal planning for families with kids

Who doesn’t want to enjoy a meal with their family every night of the week? With the demands of busy school schedules, long work hours, and general hectic lifestyles, the reality for most of us is that we’re only able to sit down for family meals about once per week. Yet experts say that doing so can yield important benefits for children.

Did you know that when kids sit down for a meal with their loved ones, they tend to eat more fruit, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals? They also consume fewer snacks with saturated fats and drink less soda, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sounds good, right? Here’s how you can make the same happen for your family, while making it convenient and fun for everyone:

  1. Stay present with a no-phone zone.
    Want to take a quick peek at your email during dinner? Just know that doing so can encourage your kids to do it, too. Instead, keep your phone off the dining table and ask your kids to do the same. That way, you’ll be able to have more meaningful conversations and a more relaxing dinnertime.

  2. Tell each other stories.
    There’s another health benefit to eating together. Studies have shown that young kids who eat dinner with family tend to talk about their day, and tell stories while doing so. These kids rank high in social-emotional health. Family meals also help children adapt well to new situations at home and perform better in school. How can you get your kids to talk? Instead of asking about their day, keep a bowl with assorted questions (“If you had one superpower what would it be?” or “if you could go anywhere where would you go?”) written on pieces of folded paper, and ask each family member to pull one at each meal.

  3. Make meal prep a team sport.
    Connecting as a family can begin before you even sit down at the table. This could include having a pretend cooking-show dinner with the kids showing you how to make their favorite dishes and vice versa. Asking them to set the table and clean up encourages good habits in the kitchen and demonstrates the value of teamwork. Put on a fun playlist with tunes the kids love while everyone helps clear the table and wash the dishes.

  4. Light up their imaginations.
    Are your kids Harry Potter fans? Serve sloppy Joes and call them “Hagrid's stoat sandwiches,” or make green eggs and ham (spinach pesto folded into scrambled eggs does the trick) and recite your favorite Dr. Seuss poems. Cookie cutters make great dinnertime accessories. Use them to create moon- and star-shaped quesadillas or heart-shaped pepperoni on pizza. Are your kids older? Ask them to research a foreign cuisine, then set time aside to choose a recipe from that region to cook together.

We hope you enjoy these helpful tips. If you’d like to learn about other ways to keep your family healthy, be sure to browse our library of articles for additional recipes and tips!