September is Family Meals Month – a chance to focus on the importance of regularly eating meals together. Eating with others can have great impact. I often talk about what you should be eating, but how and where you eat matters to your overall wellness too. Studies have shown that children who eat meals with family fare better in their school and social life.

A simple roast pork tenderloin and roasted potatoes that can all be baked on the same sheet pan.

Having more meals at home together can also help raise healthy eaters that will try a variety of foods. Remember – it can take several exposures of a new food before a young child will try it. Don’t force it, just offer. Everyone has different preferences, so it’s okay to allow your child to be choosey at times (just don’t cater to their every whim). Keep it simple and nutritious for younger diners, and gradually introduce new flavors or textures. Even the way foods are arranged on a plate may impact their willingness to try new foods.

As my mother always said, “Cook what they like.” This way, there’s no waste, everyone eats, mealtime is pleasant, and you get the opportunity to set the table, be together, and share a meal.

Raising children is hard work, and it’s easy to get into the rut of picking up take-out food or going through the drive-through on busy days, but reframe the idea of eating at home. While there are no guarantees, eating meals together as a family is something you can do to help lower the risk for risky behaviors.

Consider what benefits the time and effort spent on a family meal can do for you and your family:

  • Allows more together-time. Don’t think of cooking a quick meal as “one more thing to do”. Instead, think of it as a stress-free break, that’s not rushed, and can even be fun!
  • Is an opportunity to learn about nutrition and how eating well helps you feel better, grow, and stay strong and healthy/
  • Is a time to share your day with everyone at the table and learn more about each other.
  • Provides opportunities to learn basic, lifelong cooking skills.
  • It can save you money.
  • It provides opportunities for children and teens to develop responsibility (setting the table, cooking on their own, cleaning up, doing dishes, organizing a kitchen).

I do recommend setting the table – whether it’s a kitchen table, countertop, or coffee table – make it special. It doesn’t matter what your definition of “family is. What’s important is that you get together, relax, and enjoy a nice meal.

Here are some quick meal ideas to help you get the family to the table:

  • Pick up a roasted chicken, and add your own healthy side like these Apricot Glazed Sweet Potatoes and a quick bagged tossed salad.
  • How about Taco Tuesday? Taco night is a super simple way to get everyone involved and it’s easy to prepare and clean up.
  • Save money with our Mama Mia Meatball Pizza is lower in sodium and calories than anything you’d pick up on your way home. Like Taco Night, Make-your-own-pizza-night is an easy and fun family dinner idea that is suitable for everyone to participate in from age 3 to 13 to 83!
  • Dinner isn’t the only possibility for family meals. Try these egg cups for breakfast or simply pour a bowl of cereal and sit together! School mornings may be too busy, but try these pancakes on your day off when everyone’s home. Make extra, and you can put them into freezer bags, and heat them in the toaster on weekdays.
  • Of course, “breakfast for dinner” is always a crowd-pleaser and an easy go-to.

Share your ideas about family meals in the comment section! Happy Family Meals Month!