If you follow my blog, you know I’m a big advocate of family meals. The one thing I’ve always insisted is that we consistently sit down as a family at dinner and those meals are prepared by me 90 percent of the time. Why do I feel so strongly about this? Three reasons:
- It has helped me ensure my family is eating a well-balanced, nutritious meal for dinner that includes fruit and vegetables.
- It provides a “touch base” venue for us to discuss our day with each other and connect as a family.
- Preparing meals at home is far less expensive than dining out or even ordering take-out food, which I find to be financially savvy.
Now that both my kids have jobs and are entering their senior year at high school, I’m finding that family dinners are becoming less and less frequent simply because schedules don’t allow for them. And, in another year when college starts, they’ll be even more infrequent. What I’ve found is that all those years of home cooking and having family dinners have really paid off! Instead of grabbing something from a fast food restaurant on the evenings they work, my kids will actually ask me to make them a plate and wait until they come home and reheat the leftovers (hooray!). They will sit and chat with their father and me while they’re having their dinner when they get home. My point is that if you instill good habits while your kids are young, they will stick with them as they get older. I often play on the financial side of things as well–driving home how much money they will save by preparing their own lunch and bringing it with them when they work during the day instead of buying something at work. While this is certainly true, I also know they will have access to healthier food at home and will eat better than buying something there.
If you have young children, I encourage you to do as I did and try to gather your family at the dinner table at least three times per week. If you have “picky” eaters you might want to also involve them in preparing the meal. Give them simple tasks like tearing lettuce leaves for the salad or selecting which fruit and vegetable will be served that night. When children are involved in tasks and decisions like these they are much more likely to eat the meal that is prepared. You’ll find the more you cook at home, the more you’ll discover what your children really like and I’ll even bet their tastes will expand. I know my kids both did. If you’re strapped for time, Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has plenty of recipe ideas, including some that take only 30 minutes or less to prepare, so no need to worry about spending hours in the kitchen.
The best reward for your efforts will be having your kids come home and tell you that the house “Smells great!” when you’re cooking something. Or when they ask you, “What’s for dinner?” and you respond, to then hear, “Yessss!” Then, it’s all worth it. Plus, I’m hoping that when they’re off at college they’ll come back for dinner now and then. Maybe they’ll even carry the tradition on with their own kids someday.