Medical and nutrition experts at Intermountain Healthcare agree the effort of eating meals as a family contributes to a healthy lifestyle and to other benefits, too.
"Studies confirm that children who eat regular meals with their parents are more likely to get enough nutrients in their daily diet, maintain a healthy weight, and do well in school," says Tamara Sheffield, MD, spokesperson for Intermountain LiVe Well public service campaign. LiVe Well encourages children and families to have a healthy diet and to be active.
"In fact, these kids tend to stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs and are generally more happy and positive about their futures. Family meals may be hard to arrange, but they're worth it," Dr. Sheffield says.
An instant way to make a family meal special is to take it outdoors! Whatever you're eating, it's more fun eaten picnic-style. It can be near (your backyard) or far (a destination picnic)... it can be simple (salads and sandwiches) or fancy. Make it healthy by following these simple rules:
- Foods to avoid: fried foods, salads made with mayonnaise, sugar-loaded drinks and desserts.
- Foods to enjoy: fresh salads, marinated grilled meats, veggies with dip... and watermelon.
"One great thing about a picnic is you can add activity! Throw a football, play softball or soccer, have a race or take a walk. Activities are fun, build confidence in your children, and are great for your health," says Dr. Sheffield.
Other ways to improve family eating time are the following:
- Make an appointment for the family dinner.
- Stop grazing.
- Have everybody help with cooking.
- When things get complex — keep meals simple.
- Limit fast food.
- Sit down and slow down.
- At home eat only in the dining room or kitchen.
- Don't eat in the car.
You can find more expert advice on diet, activity, and attitudes about weight management, online at intermountainlivewell.org or at Facebook.com/intermountainlivewell.