Nourishing Children and Families

When we eat together, we share more than a meal.

Getting a meal on the table is a daily challenge for the modern family. Meeting that challenge is well worth the effort - for a lot of reasons. Study after study identifies a strong relationship between number of meals eaten as a family and higher diet quality. But there’s so much more to family meals than nutrients. 

Children and adults learn at the table and connect with each other in meaningful ways. To name a few findings from the research, frequent family meals are linked to improved child literacy, better grades in school, less alcohol and drug use, and lower incidence of depression. 

More time at home with the current "Stay Home, Stay Safe" mandate may be just the right time to have family meals more often. Try not to put a lot of pressure on yourself and the menu. A great meal doesn't have to be a special menu. Most likely, everyone will be eating something - so serve that same food. Instead of eating separately, put the food on the table and gather everyone around.  

Besides saying, “Dinners on!” what motivates your family to come-and-get-it? At a recent Health4U staff meeting, one of my colleagues told about his teenage and adult children making up games to give another level of interest to dinner. They call it Fun Dinner – and that just about says it all! Dinner with a sprinkle of levity to challenge the doldrums.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Proper dinner attire: Come to dinner with clothing that meets some criteria, like Monochromatic Outfit, Backwards Dinner (wear your clothes backwards, dinner starts with dessert), Out-of-Season Outfit, Dress Like a Movie Character. You get the idea.

Poetry night: Choose a short poem or write one for the occasion. Take turns reciting. Have each reader stand and talk into the mic!

Guess what’s for dinner: Everyone comes with a blindfold. Once dinner’s set out, take turns guessing the menu.

Where in the world: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? (Once the pandemic is over, of course!). Be ready to describe or show where your place is on the globe. 

The rules are simple: 

  1. The theme can only be decided on the day of the dinner, once everyone is up and around, and by the first person who calls it. No one can balk and no one can argue. Once it's called, that's it. The person who calls the theme can add specifics to the rules. 
  2. Everyone participates. 
  3. Anything that needs to be done for the Fun Dinner must be available in the house. No shopping, no leaving the house to get anything - that wouldn't be okay with the governor anyway. 
  4. Fun Dinner can't be every single night. Otherwise it gets boring or starts to feel like a chore. It seems like two or three Fun Dinners a week is a good number, with some break in between for just normal dinners - still fun! 

Additions to these lists will be made as we get viable ideas for themes and rules. Keep a watch!

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