By Nicola Nieburg
Kids who dine with their parents grow up healthier and happier - but it's harder than ever to fit family dinners in. Real moms share their tried-and-true recipes for bringing the family together around the table.
Rounding up the troops for dinner each day is a logistical challenge for every parent. But a family sit-down brings more than just a healthy meal to the table. "Eating dinner together sets the stage for positive family interactions, makes kids feel more secure about themselves, encourages good nutrition, and lowers the risk of eating disorders and obesity" asserts Miriam Weinstein, author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals. And kids who have frequent family dinners are less likely to try drugs, drink, or smoke, and they're also more likely to get better grades, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. That's great news, but all the research in the world won't make family dinner happen. What will? Start with these mom-tested strategies to get your family back to the dinner table.
Make dinner a movable feast.
When Dad has to stay late at the office, or they're busy with an activity, the Kiner family of Phoenix doesn't give up on their family dinner plans. "When Dad's working late, sometimes we'll meet him somewhere on the way home from work and have a special meal out" explains Anne Kiner, 40, mom to Elizabeth 10, and Mitchell, 7. "The kids love it because it's a chance to try different food than what they normally have at home. Plus, we all get to eat together."
Think outside the dinner hour.
Can't pin everyone down for a weeknight dinner? Turn lunch into a family affair instead. "Our son Isaiah, 22 months, is often in bed before my husband, Jamie, gets home" says Ingrid Daniels, 34, of Newark, NJ. "Jamie is able to come home midday, so we have lunch as a family." If lunch isn't possible either, set aside weekend family meal times, as the Ross family of Alpharetta, GA, does: "My husband works long hours and travels frequently" says Karyn, 40. "So we have David, 11, Joey, 10, and Ben, 5, keep track of what happened during the week to share with him on Saturday at breakfast and Sunday at suppertime."