In your household, where does sharing a family meal fall on your list of daily priorities? Somewhere between ‘unlikely’ and ‘not gonna happen’? If your answer is ‘YEP!’, read below.

We know that consuming healthy meals with our family is important for physical health. But the benefits don’t stop there. Research indicates that family meals can actually do a whole lot more. Studying the impact of family meals has been a hot topic over the past 15-20 years. What have we learned?

Children that regularly average at least five meals per week with their family seem to have lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression. They also tend to have higher grade point averages, as well as improved self-esteem & overall resilience. For the younger ones, sharing conversation over meals can lead to a nice boost in their vocabulary. While this all sounds great, making it happen regularly is admittedly challenging.

Busy schedules and the different needs of our family members are among the biggest factors holding us back. Most days already feel like trying to fit together a 1000 piece puzzle to me! Here are some tips to make it a little less out of reach. First, keep in mind that these benefits are not limited to dinner meals. Any five meals over the course of the week count. So, pick the times that will work best for your family, be it at the breakfast table, out to lunch after a Saturday morning game, or a quick dinner shared between homework, practices, and meetings.

Keep it simple if you have limited time. Pick easy to prepare meals with limited ingredients, like casseroles, soups, stir fry, or tacos. Get everyone involved in the preparation, be it sending your teen to the store with a grocery list, or assigning tasks like setting the table, or mashing potatoes to the younger ones. Not only is getting together for meals good for the kids, but it’s good for us too!

Remember, having the support of those around us is vital when it comes to achieving health goals that involve diet and lifestyle changes. For help with simple meals, check out the Media Library for recipes and meal ideas.