Creating a Better Family Dinner Time

October 11, 2012

Regular family meals are also associated with higher grades; and lower rates of substance abuse and depression in kids - and, yes, they eat better too. Over 40% of the US food budget is spent on eating outside the home. Family meals are linked to healthier eating -- and more! Earlier this year, a university study reported that kids who routinely have family meals together are more likely to have a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium and vitamins. Registered Dietitian, Pat Baird shows how to make the dinner table a magnet for family dinners.

Non-nutritional benefits of family dinners:

  • Research shows family meals creates closer family bonds
  • 74% of adolescents report they LIKE having family meals
  • Kids more likely to talk about their day; confide in parents
  • Parents have the benefit of knowing what's going on

Health and Nutritional Benefits But...Make a Plan:

  • Studies show kids who have regular family meals are less obese, get higher grades and less likely to use drugs and be depressed
  • Use MyPlate nutritional guideline from the USDA to plan family dinners; half the plate should always be veggies and fruit
  • Use tricks to entice healthier eating: add dried fruits to salads and side dishes; add broccoli to baked macaroni
  • Watch the fat: bake, broil, grill; avoid frying

Make it Easy, Make it Quick:

  • Keep a running shopping list in the kitchen; get everyone involved in planning and shopping
  • Use frozen poly bags of veggies to toss into soups, sauces and casseroles
  • Cook ahead and keep an assortment of tight-lid containers to freeze ahead for a quick MW meals
  • YES, take-out or restaurants are fine WHEN the right foods are selected. Make this a contest to get the whole family familiar with the healthiest choices at your favorite restaurant

Make a Schedule:

  • If you don't it won't happen
  • Use an oversize wall calendar for everyone to check
  • Make a Master Family Calendar on Google everyone can check on their cell phone


Pat Baird, Registered Dietitian, fitness authority, specializing in the development and communication of information on food, nutrition and health-related issues for consumers and health care professionals. A Fellow of The American Dietetic Association, Ms. Baird is noted for her expertise in the areas of osteoporosis, weight management, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders. Pat helps to educate Americans on health and weight management. Pat is also and author of Be Good to Your Gut, The Pyramid Cookbook: Pleasures of the Food Guide Pyramid, Cooking with Mickey & Friends, and Quick & Hearty.

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