Making family meals easier

Struggling to get everyone around the dinner table? Try keeping it simple with these tips
 Child smiling at their family around the dinner table eating spaghetti

Despite living hectic lives, about 60% of Canadians say they manage to eat dinner as a family about five times a week. That’s a great start, since family meals are linked to healthier food choices for both children and adults.

Studies show that kids who eat with their parents tend to consume more vegetables, less fried food and less soda pop, which is better for long-term health, and helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.  

In addition to eating healthier meals, the ritual of gathering at the table helps foster communication and family cohesiveness. Plus, studies show that sharing meals has other benefits too, including:

  • higher academic success for students
  • teens who have a lower chance of smoking, abusing alcohol or drug use
  • fewer disordered eating behaviours 
  • better mental well-being and a lower risk of depression 
  • an opportunity to model healthy eating habits and table manners.

There’s no argument that family meals are great, but it can still be a struggle to come together at the table. The good news is that studies show that even one or two family meals per week can offer the same benefits, so you don’t have to worry about getting everyone sitting down together every night. 

Another bonus? The benefits don’t only come from dinner – you can share breakfast, lunch or brunch and reap the same rewards. 

So breathe a sigh of relief, parents. Don’t ever feel guilty if you can’t share every meal as a family.

Instead, start by ensuring that you have at least one family meal per week. Choose the time of day that works for your family’s schedule, and get everyone involved. It really takes the pressure off when you divide the responsibilities of grocery shopping, meal prep, cooking, setting the table and cleaning up. 

Kids can – and should – help too! It’s a great way to teach them kitchen skills that will benefit them into adulthood.

Here are some tips and tricks to pull together family meals:

Breakfast or brunch
  • Keep it simple. A no-cook breakfast, such as yogurt, fruit and granola, is the easiest to pull together. If you have three minutes to spare, try this Instant oatmeal pumped up, which adds milk, berries and wheat germs to plain oats.
  • On mornings with a little more time, consider a slow-simmering apple cinnamon oatmeal, mini breakfast burritos, or a frittata. Pancakes are another family favourite. Try our blueberry pancakes, which are made with whole grain flour for a heart-healthy boost of fibre.
Lunch or dinner
  • Serve it up family style. That means you put the food in the middle of the table and people help themselves to what they enjoy. Easiest for you, plus everyone can customize their plate and portion size that’s right for their appetite.
  • A great family-style meal is tacos, where you can serve a platter with all of the optional garnishes, and each family member can have their taco the way they like it. Try our fish tacos or chicken tacos for a fun and family-friendly dinner idea.
  • When time is tight, consider an all-in-one recipe that is quick to prepare and easy to serve. Look for “one pot” or “sheet pan” recipes. Bonus points if also provides leftovers for a future meal. Some of our favourites are:

When your meal starts, suggest that everyone at the table put their phones on silent. Turn off the TV, power down the iPads, and enjoy the good company of the people around you.