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How to Enjoy Healthy Family Meals Without Losing Your Mind

One of my favorite childhood memories has to be sitting at the table with my family and enjoying a delicious dinner. The smell of home-cooked meals always made my mouth water and my stomach roar. It was the only time of the day where our busy schedules aligned and we could give our focus to each other. There were no distractions, just the quiet murmur of our talk and laughter. Aside from just eating, it was a time for building relationships, enjoying each other’s company and getting things off our chests.

As time passes, it’s becoming harder in our society to make time for such a small part but crucial part of the day. Research shows that family dinners have declined around 30%. We’re spending longer hours at the office. Single parents are often working twice as hard as couples, and thus, less time at home. Life can sometimes feel like a never ending to-do list which makes convenience items a priority. Who wants to cook at night when you finally get a break from work? Once you cook, eat and clean, it will be time for bed and the entire process starts over the next day. If we do find the energy to make a meal, food often becomes background noise while our television and phones take the spotlight. Our family relationships inadvertently begin to suffer as we engage less frequently.

There are ways to enjoy more family meals

  • Have you ever heard of meal services? There are many companies that deliver pre-cooked meals that you can quickly heat up in the oven or microwave. Some of these services include Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Home Chef. There also local meal services in your area that you can find with a quick Google Search. For example, a local Asheville option is Asheville Pro Kitchen. How to enjoy healthy family meals
  • Prepare meals for the week during the weekend. When you get home late, heat up those leftovers and relax at the table with the family. 
  • Plug in that dusty crockpot! There are lots of great recipes you can find online that just need a few ingredients for a delicious meal. Just turn on the crockpot when you leave for work and come home to mouth-watering, healthy and delicious food. 
  • Set a schedule. You don’t have to feel obligated to prepare meals every day of the week. Set a goal that is realistic for your family. Even if you set aside time for dinner with the family one day a week, you’re starting somewhere. 

Direct link between family meals and health

Participating in family meals allows time for communication, problem solving and sharing tradition. Importantly, it makes memories that your children can recall fondly as they age. Teenagers are more likely to report excellent relationships with their family members if they take part in more family meals. Families that practice meal times have healthier eating patterns like higher fruit and vegetable intake, and lower intake of saturated fats and fried foods. These patterns and behaviors learned in childhood are often carried on into adulthood. A study by the Max Plank Institute showed that there is a link between frequent family meals and a lower BMI.  There is also less disordered eating and risky behavior seen in children and teens.

Even though time can feel like it’s slipping through your fingers like wet sand, it’s important to carve out time to spend with your family. It can be easy to forget about the communication and relationship building that often comes during meal times. In times like these, sit back and remember your own childhood family meal time. Do you smile upon these memories happily or do you laugh at the lack thereof? No matter your past, you can always focus on shaping your own future. Let’s give our kids memories they deserve and help set them up for a healthy life.

About the Author

Megan Burrows is a Dietetic Intern at Remedy Health and Wellness, serving the Asheville, NC and surrounding areas. Megan Burrows is currently completing her Dietetic Internship through Lenoir Rhyne University and on track to become a Registered Dietitian. She is also a certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine.

It is Megan’s dream to one day combine the benefits of fitness and nutrition into a full-time career as a sports dietitian with her own practice. Her transition into an active lifestyle in her 20’s sparked her passion for nutrition. She quickly began to recognize the value of optimizing nutrition for athletic performance and wanted to help fellow athletes achieve their full potential.

When she isn’t working on her internship you can find her at CrossFit, volunteering at the Humane Society or working on puzzles. You can follow her CrossFit shenanigans on Instagram @mburr1322.

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