The Benefits of Family Dinners
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Summertime can be a bit less structured than the rest of the year, so now that the school year is in full swing, it's a great season to revisit the importance of dining together as a family! Our lives often seem so fast-paced and "plugged in" sometimes that it's easy to dismiss the idea of sitting at an old-fashioned dinner table. Research has shown, families who come together for a meal, have a better relationship, communicate more, and raise children who are more successful.
Togetherness is important, but so is nutrition. You need more than 40 different nutrients for good health, so planning balanced meals through the week helps you provide the proper nutrition for your children. Choosing foods from each food group will help you add those important nutrients to your family meals. Still, keep in mind that no single food will make or break your overall diet. For more information about planning balanced meals, check out the USDA's Choose my Plate. This interactive site can help you personalize your eating plans so that everyone's needs are met.
Of course you want to do your best at planning healthy family meals as often as possible, but let's face it, some days are more hectic than others. Don't beat yourself up if you don't always have time to cook, or don't have a perfectly stocked pantry. Simple meals like a sandwich and a piece of fruit, or scrambled eggs and toast, can make the perfect dinner. Your schedules simply may not allow dinner together each night. Just do your best to get together as often as possible. Perhaps you can plan a Saturday morning family brunch or a Sunday morning breakfast?
Offer smart beverages to your children and teenagers too. Your children are going to get some sugar in their diets daily, but setting a good example with healthy foods at dinner helps add nutrition and keeps a tab on added sugars. Rather than a sugary drink with meals, add a glass of milk to each meal for a great source of protein, calcium, and other important minerals and vitamins.
Moderation and getting up and moving are also important in keeping your family healthy. Enjoy a happy, healthy fall season!
Rust is a licensed, registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, author and member of the CRA RD Panel. She’s co-authored Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies, Restaurant Calorie Counter for Dummies®, 2nd ed (2011), Calorie Counter Journal for Dummies® and The Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies® (Dec 2010). To learn more, visit: www.rustnutrition.com
Members of the RD Panel are paid consultants to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), but their statements and opinions are their own. RD Panel members provide general dietary information, but you should consult your own physician or dietitian for advice concerning your particular circumstance.