By Diana K. Rice, RD
As a registered dietitian with a special interest in child health, I know that children today face higher odds than ever of growing up to be obese or develop a chronic disease related to diet and lifestyle. Parents and teachers know that it’s critical that we instill today’s youth with healthy habits that will help prevent such outcomes later in life.
Many school-based programs are working to help children develop healthy habits, but did you know there’s one action that parents can take at home that can also have a huge impact? A recent study found that as few as one or two family meals a week can help protect children against obesity later in life. And it’s not just healthy weight that’s associated with the habit. Other studies have demonstrated that regular family meals are associated with improved academic performance, lower rates of adolescent substance abuse and overall increased feelings of family togetherness.
The trouble is, in today’s crazy world of homework, afterschool activities and parental work schedules, finding the time and energy to get the whole family together for a meal can be a challenge. That’s where Monday comes in. AtThe Kids Cook Monday, the non-profit public health campaign where I’m on staff, we have a simple slogan, “Start your week off right, make Monday family night!” Our research shows that Monday is the day people are most predisposed to adopting new healthy habits that lead to lasting change.
So we’re working with parents and schools across the country to create school cultures where family meals on Mondays – or least once a week – are the norm.