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Gather Together for Family Meals and Reap the Rewards

Sharon Palmer

Did you know that the simple act of gathering together around the dinner table can lead to benefits for your family? From eating a more healthful, nutritious diet to feeling more emotionally balanced and achieving better academic performance, the rewards are plenty.

That’s why I’m sharing my own commitment to the FMI Foundation National Family Meals Month movement, which encourages families to share one more family breakfast, lunch or dinner at home per week using items from the grocery store. You can post your pledge photos, mealtime pictures, favorite recipes, shopping tips, and even a selfie wearing a favorite oven mitt with the hashtag #FamilyMealsMonth. You can find even more great information at the FMI Foundation website, to inspire you to increase your family meals goal.

More and more people are becoming aware of the family meals movement.  According to the National Family Meals Month survey, which was conducted by the Nielsen Harris poll within the U.S. among 2,185 respondents, 15 million households had heard about National Family Meals Month in 2017.  And among those who saw the campaign, there has been significant behavior change:

  • 42% of consumers report they are cooking more meals at home.
  • 36% of consumers report they are eating together more often as a family.
  • 36% report that they are making healthier food choices.
  • 35% report that they are purchasing more fruits and vegetables.

This is good news, as American families have been straying away from the dinner table over the years, as we lead busier and more disconnected lives. The Food Marketing Institute U.S. Grocery Shoppers Trends 2018 report conducted by The Hartman Group demonstrates that:

  • Among meals eaten each week, only eight are eaten with family/household members – approximately two breakfasts, two lunches and four dinners.

This same study also showed that regardless of generation or income levels, American shoppers share the same top-four obstacles to having meals at home with their families more often:

  • 49% cite differing schedules;
  • 22% report that they don’t have enough energy or are too tired;
  • 19% say they don’t have enough time to prepare meals; and
  • 18% report that too many distractions get in the way such as television, social media or homework projects.

So what can you do to bring your family together for more meals? Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Create Family Mealtimes with My Top 5 Tips

  • Get Your Kids in on the Act. Give your children some small tasks for family mealtime, such as setting the table, tossing the salad, picking out their favorite recipes for the week, and stirring the pot. They will be more engaged in the meal by getting involved from the start.
  • Create a Small Oasis of Time for Meals. Despite your busy schedules, try to find 30 minutes that the family can gather together for a meal and stick to your schedule.
  • Create a Simple Menu and Shopping List. When you prepare for the week, write up a quick and easy meal plan and coordinating shopping list. This will eliminate timely last minute shopping trips, and help you stick to your plan.
  • Try Meal Prepping. Prepping your meals at the beginning of the week can make it easier to put together healthful delicious meals on your busy nights. Check out my meal prep guide here for tips.
  • Make it Easy. Mealtimes don’t have to be 5-course gourmet meals! You can put meals on the table as quickly as you can order and pickup takeout. Try interactive, build-your-own meals, such as Taco night, pasta bars, grain bowls, pita sandwich bars, and veggie burgers.

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