Family mealtimes don’t have to be complicated, and can even include a sandwich on the bed of a pickup. Eating together as a family pays big dividends for children in terms of their health, academics, and relationships with family. 

Do you want to make this summer matter for your family? One simple routine that can have profound effects on kids’ academic success and health is eating together as a family. 

In reading an article from the American College of Pediatricians, teens who have dinner with their families seven times a week are almost 40 percent likelier to say they receive mostly A’s and B’s in school compared to teens who have dinner with their families just two or less times per week. 

Children ages nine to 14 that have more regular dinners with their families are 35 percent less likely to engage in disordered eating and 24 percent more likely to eat healthier foods. 

The article also shared that teens who have less than three family dinners per week are 2.5 times more likely to use marijuana, twice as likely to use alcohol, and four times more likely to use tobacco. In addition, they are more likely to experience depression and more likely to engage in dangerous activities. 

So, knowing the importance of family meals, how do families make it possible when family members are heading in multiple directions? Here’s a few tips to help make family meals manageable!

Eating together as a family is the main thing. Family meals can mean family breakfasts or a simple dinner of sandwiches or grilled hot dogs, it doesn’t have to mean a five-course meal. 

At the beginning of the week, spend a few minutes to jot on a calendar everyone’s activities and plan a few nights when there can be a dinner as a family. Ask your kids if there is anything they would like to try for dinner and involve them in the meal planning. Meal planning will also help with grocery shopping as well! 

Encourage kids to pick out fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. To help make the right choice the easy choice, give them two equally good options. For example, instead of asking what they want for a snack, ask if you should get apples or bananas, both good options. They are still involved in the decision-making process and are picking out healthy items. 

Involve the kids in the process of family mealtimes. Kids can help set the table, prepare a salad, shuck corn on the cob, mix ingredients, and clean up afterwards. In fact, you may even pick one night a week when it’s the kids’ responsibility to choose the menu and cook. This is great training and helps the entire family take ownership of the family meal. The local library has numerous cookbooks that may even provide recipe inspiration as well! 

Summer is a great time to work on creating a dinnertime routine to carry over into the school year. Teens with frequent family dinners are one and half times more likely to have an excellent relationship with their mother and twice as likely to have an excellent relationship with both their father and siblings. For peace and harmony in the family, better academics, and improved nutrition, eating together is a great place to start! 

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