Earlier this month, I shared that September is National Fruits and Vegetables Month. The month-long excitement doesn’t end there. It’s also Family Meals Month, a time when we highlight the many reasons we should gather and connect as a family. Since its start in 2015, the Family Meals Month “movement” has championed the importance of family meals, with mounting research and evidence. The reality is that many households struggle to manage shifting schedules, time constraints, and other considerations that impact the frequency of family meals. However, if we’re willing to expand the definition of the family meal and approach the goal of gathering with a broader lens, then I believe we can change that.
Gather, connect, and share
The goals of family meals are to gather, connect with those we love, and to be nourished. There are a myriad of ways we can meet those goals. It may not always present like a traditional family meal, but we can achieve the same result when we work within the framework of a busy week and other factors.
Accept shifting schedules
You’re likely not fully in control of the weekly schedule. But you are in control of how it impacts your home. Shifting schedules and varied mealtimes mean that members of the same household are not always hungry or available for a meal at the same time. However, time can still be spent together in the kitchen. It just might mean that some re eating dinner, while others are enjoying a snack. What’s important, is that everyone is together to connect, share, and nourish their bodies the way they need to. Consider family meal goals met.
Prep to make it easier
One of the biggest barriers to family meals is time. Time to cook meals, to sit and eat them, and to clean the kitchen. It all adds up and creates a significant challenge on a busy weeknight. Planning and prepping ahead is a must. You could also set aside time to cook batches of food and package them up. But don’t skip the critical step of reviewing the week ahead before shopping for or cooking your meals. Guiding Stars can help find you find nutritious and convenient products hat will streamline your week. Check out these combinations of star-earning foods that can be used to make make effortless meals. They allow more time for eating and connecting. Prep and clean up are minimized too.
Family dinner doesn’t have to mean meals shared with only family members. When families and friends gather for a shared dinner, it makes the experience more enjoyable and may even enhance some of the positive outcomes (after all, kids are likely to talk more when their friends are around). Whether it’s Friday night pizza, or an early Sunday dinner, sharing meals with friends is a wonderful way to meet the goals of family meals.
Not just dinner
Lastly, it’s important to remember that family meals are not just about weeknight evenings. Maybe it’s family breakfast, brunch on weekends, or simply snack time together between activities. Possibly it’s not eating at all, but rather doing some prep for the week together with kid-friendly recipes. There are plenty of moments beyond the weeknight evening. Find what works for your household and what helps you meet the goal of sharing and connecting with family.