Family + Conversation + Eating – technology = Dinner FUN!
There has been an abundance of research done on family dinners and their importance for your health. Sitting around the dinner table, having positive interactions works against childhood obesity and works for better health and sometimes even helps outgrow the dramatics of a picky eater. Today I’m going to outline Lindsey’s Dinner Rules and why our family dinners are a MUST. Before you say “wow she is crazy with all these rules”, hear me out! There is actual research on family dinners and how they can impact your health and the health of your children.
Dinner is served at 6 (ok, sometimes 6:15). Creating that routine helps kids know what to expect. Dad gets home from work, we play and then we eat. We eat at home most nights, which is also great for weight control because I know exactly what is going into the foods we eat. I love recipes like enchiladas or baked ziti because I can make then ahead of time (like while the baby is napping) and then pop it in the oven just before it’s time to eat. If you are a working parent, it’s time to get out the crock pot and start dinner before you leave for work. Prepping foods ahead of time is the number one time saver when the dinner time chaos begins.
No cell phones at the table. I’ll be the first to admit, I am on my cell phone when I shouldn’t be. But I’m pretty strict about no phones at the table. We leave them in the other room and on silent. I love that our dinner conversations are technology free and its the best time of the day for family bonding. We talk about our day, exciting things coming up in the future and we laugh about how silly my one-year-old is when he eats. We talk about the best part of our day and the worst part. I love it. Don’t get me wrong though, we do have a 4-year-old who can be pretty dramatic – so it’s not rainbows and unicorns every night – but we give it a try anyways.
Collaborative menu planning. Every Sunday, while we are playing with the kids, I get out my giant scrapbook style cookbook and a sheet of paper and plan out our dinners for the week. It is SO important to carve out some time for menu planning. Preparing what you are going to eat for the week is crucial for weight loss and weight management because it helps you avoid the last-minute “oh no! what are we going to eat tonight? Let’s make a Chipotle run”.
My necessities for meal planning:
- grocery list
- meal planning list
- weather app
- a cup of coffee (or 2!)
I look at the calendar to see if we have anything coming up. If I know my husband will be working late one night, I choose an easy dinner to make since I will be cooking it while playing with the boys. I check the weather to see which day would be best for grilling out (I’m so nice, I don’t make my husband grill out in the rain). I write out my meals for the week and also write out my grocery list simultaneously. I always ask for input from the boys. I love letting my 4-year-old pick out a meal – that way when the day comes for his meal, he is super excited!
I am NOT a short order cook. I make one meal and one meal only. I’ve been doing this from day one with my family. I remember growing up, my mom would make everyone a different meal. In hindsight, I know she was trying to be a good mom by attempting to make us all happy, but I remember it being very stressful for her. In an attempt to avoid stress and avoid picky eaters, I have always only made one meal. Eat it or don’t, but I’m not making anything else. I’m also a big believer in not serving “kids meals” at home. We save the chicken fingers for nights out when they can order whatever they want. At home, we all eat the same thing. I’m proud to say that both of my kids love grilled chicken, filet mignon, lasagna, and spaghetti and meatballs.
One other thing that sometimes works against us: If My 4-year-old eats well (we don’t force him to clear his plate), he gets 30 minutes of playing the Wii before bed (it IS a video game, but he is sweating by the time he is done playing because he is so active with it, so I’m ok with it). If he doesn’t eat, it is understood that he won’t play, but that does come with some meltdowns. We do not do dessert every night. On special occasions, we will go outside and have a popsicle on the porch, but it’s not daily. Don’t let sugar (or the lack thereof!) dictate how your dinner is going to go.
Responsibility and Manners. Mealtime is a great time for teaching these fundamentals. My 4-year-old helps to set the table and helps to clear the table. He is learning to understand what goes into making a meal for the family and enjoys to help clean up. We talk about how we stay seated until the meal is over and that dinner is for eating, not for walking around or playing with toys.
With that being said, we like to switch things up every now and then and have a picnic dinner in the basement while we watch a movie (or a UK basketball game). It’s fun to get out of the normal routine and do something fun – and the kids love it!
So there you go. Those are the 5 main fundamentals behind our family dinners. I’m NOT perfect – we definitely have those nights of crying at the table (from my 4-year-old – although sometimes I cry internally 😂) but we try – and that’s all you can ask for! The main takeaway is to try to create that routine with your family and see what happens! Not only will you be taking a positive step towards a great family activity, but research shows routine family meals helps to decrease childhood obesity and encourages weight loss in adults. So GO FOR IT!