Family Meals: A Tasty Foundation for Healthy Youth Development | Community

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Between work, community activities and errands, meals on the go have become a staple for many American families.

You may not realize it, but taking those few extra moments to sit down for a meal with your family fills more than your stomachs.

Sitting down to a family meal is one of the simplest proven ways to enrich the life of your young one. On a psychological level, regular family meals have been proven to help young people do better in school when it comes to tests, homework and general intellectual development. Social benefits include better social adjustment, especially for adolescents, less likelihood of using drugs, alcohol or smoking, and stronger family ties.

If these benefits aren’t enough, there are also nutritional benefits.

By having these regular meals made up of healthy, nutritious foods, you are helping your child develop healthy eating habits, which reduces the risk of being overweight.

Convenience is a big factor when deciding what to eat, leaving many families to choose the instant gratification of fast food.

You may cringe at the thought of the time spent planning and preparing a family meal, but there is a solution. Don’t make it a chore; make it an experience.

Everyone’s schedule is different, so make these meal times work for you. Keeping them quick by planning meals or having an easy-to-prepare recipe is the quickest. Remember that meals don’t have to be every night; work around the availability of your family. Even one or two meals a week can have a lasting impact on your family.

Involving your whole family in meal preparation can reduce the time spent “working” while maximizing bonding time. Ask a family member to set the table while you prepare the main course.

Ask others to serve drinks or clean the table. This divides the tasks and allows you to spend time together in the process. The investment of the whole family in the meal makes it more enjoyable and less time-consuming.

The quality family time you can get from a family meal is priceless.

The goal is to have undivided attention among family members and with the distractions of technology all around, this can be difficult to accomplish. By making meals tech-free, you’ll have more time for quality family interactions. Talk about your day, family memories, possible vacations, or fun questions that everyone might relate to.

For more information on healthy youth development, contact the Madison County Cooperative Extension Service, 859-623-4072.

Source: Heather Norman-Burgdolf, UK food and nutrition extension specialist

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