The highly sought after family meals are often encouraged for its social and health benefits – it encourages communication and strengthens family bonds. Unfortunately, the idea of a home-cooked meal is simply unrealistic for a lot of modern families.
A 2014 study found that moms from all backgrounds found it hard in a busy lifestyle in carving out the time to prepare meals for everyone to enjoy. Add kids with food allergies, gluten intolerance, or simply parents wanting to eat more organic – these and more challenges make it harder to prepare a good home-cooked meal. Furthermore, if the relationship between children and parents are already rocky, then forcing them to a sit down meal only worsens matters. This is part of the reason why some people abhor the holidays – it reminds them of, well, family. So try a new family tradition starting with these 3 basic tips:
1. Don’t bring tech to the table
A great way to encourage a healthy family dynamic with the upcoming holidays is to go old school: Go techless at the dinner table. No TV, no laptop and definitely no cell phone! Our dependence on tech causes us to be less approachable simply because we forget how to talk. I’m talking about actual face-to-face talk. Not instant messaging, texting, or emailing. We used to think tech made it easier to communicate, but it only distances us further. If you think you can talk and text at the dinner table, you’re not fooling anyone. Everyone can see you aren’t really being present with the people around you.
2. Eat your vegetables at home
Eating family meals encourages healthier eating. A 2012 study found an association between fruit and vegetable intake with family meals. Basically, kids who ate a well-cooked meal instead of eating out with friends tended to not fill their bodies with soda, burgers and fries. This isn’t a big surprise, but it’s good to remember this point. Plus it reinforces better eating behavior by the entire family when parents lead by example. If you don’t bring bad food into the house, you won’t eat it.
3. Eat with positive people
An interesting 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics found that kids tended to be more obese in family with negative family dynamics. The study found that parents who had conversations based on controlling talk on how to eat, what to eat, or simply poor communication in general, tended to have obese kids. Conversely, kids who received positive reinforcement on eating, and overall more communicative talks at meals tended to be healthier.
Nowadays we thrive in tech, and the new generation is raised in an environment that loves to communicate by not talking. The key is don’t encourage this generation that it’s ok to text at the dinner table. Put your tech away when eating. Family meals are supposed to be social.
Also, when you talk, remember to not let a family meal be about taking turns at venting your days’ problems on your family. Positive communication is lacking enough at our jobs – don’t bring negativity home. I challenge you to put your cell phone down and truly interact. When you’re at home, ask your spouse how their day went, ask your kids what did they enjoy about today. Basic stuff, yet very effective, especially if you start this with kids at an early age.
Sitting down for a family meal can be tough for the modern family. Studies show that even eating these ways just a few days a week as a family is still beneficial. So make the effort to find the time for your loved ones. The holiday season is a great starting point.