March is National Nutrition Month! To celebrate, we’re doubling down on our focus on the importance of regular family meals. But we know it can be tough to get the whole family around the dinner table for a healthy meal, so we asked some of our favorite nutrition experts what their top tips are for making family meals happen on a regular basis.
See if you can find a theme in their answers! (Hint: It starts with a P and ends with LANNING…) Inspired to get started? Take the Kids Cook Monday Pledge!
I think about what I will cook for dinner in the morning and do some simple preparations before leaving for work. This helps to make cooking dinner faster in the evening. I also get my sons involved in chopping vegetables, setting the table and other tasks. Together, we make family meals happen. I also spark interesting conversations, to keep everyone actively engaged as we eat. And, family meals are free of electronic devices.
~Pam Koch, RD, Executive Director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Program in Nutrition, Teachers College, Columbia University
I always try to remember that healthy AND delicious food doesn’t need to be complicated. There’s nothing hard or time consuming about serving sliced raw fruit and vegetables as a side dish. Or reheating a batch of leftovers two nights in a row. Cutting the cook of the house some slack and utilizing some grocery store shortcuts (like washed and pre-cut produce) can help save time on the front end, and ensure your family is able to spend more quality time around the dinner table.
Get the kids involved! Each member of the family can pick “their meal” for a day of the week. Get kids involved with selecting the recipe, creating the shopping list (help shop, too!) and making the meal! All family members are expert taste testers and can rate the family meal, add a star system for weekly winners as a bonus! It’s all about engagement, good food and fun,”
I firmly agree that eating meals together is so important but does it have to be dinner? Why can’t it be breakfast? On those weekdays when I know we may not all be home in the evening to sit down together around the table at the same time, I make it a priority for everyone to be awake and in the kitchen together for a family breakfast before we begin our day.
Planning meals together as a family is key for making dinners happen on a regular basis. When we plan our meals together we not only talk about what foods we love and want to include in our meals, but we talk about our schedules for the upcoming week. This helps ensure that we eat together as a family as often as we can.
It’s all in the planning. I plan the meals for the week. On Sunday, we go to the grocery store and/or farmer’s market to buy the food. At home, we prep one to two meals so that during the week, we have ready-to-eat, healthy, homemade food for a delicious family dinner. When the food is easily accessible, you can make the family meal happen.
~Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, weight management dietitian, founder of Family. Food. Fiesta and Kids Cook Monday Ambassador
Take 15 minutes on the weekend to plan ahead for a few meals for the week. Then you can make your grocery list, shop or order your groceries, and you won’t be “scrambling” every day at 6:00 to figure out what to make or having to stop at the store on the way home on a busy weekday.
~Aviva Goldfarb, family dinner expert, founder and CEO of The Six O’Clock Scramble and author of The Six O’Clock Scramble Meal Planner: A Year of Quick, Delicious Meals to Help You Prevent and Manage Diabetes.