Make mealtime family time

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By Jessica Spalding Bickett

One of the fondest memories of my childhood is that of my entire family sitting down almost every evening for a nice meal together.  It was a great opportunity for us to talk about the day’s events and stay connected with each other.  For most families these days it is hard to make time for family meals for many reasons.  But the benefits of sharing a meal together are tremendous for both parents and kids.
Many studies have been done to show the benefits of family mealtime. Families who frequently share meals together are healthier families.  Studies show that kids tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy products at meals shared with parents. They also learn how to choose more nutritious foods.   
Social skills are also improved at family mealtime.  Kids learn language development, table manners and conversation skills.  It has also been shown that regular family mealtime leads to greater academic achievement, improved reading skills and test scores.
Family mealtime does not have to be complicated or expensive.  With today’s busy schedules, it isn’t always possible to have everyone present for a family meal.  One adult and one child can have a family mealtime.  In addition, family mealtime does not always have to be at the kitchen table.  Have a picnic at the soccer field or a “tailgater” in the car.  
Let each family member plan a day’s menu.  This will satisfy everyone’s taste buds and allow for creativity.  Remember to make a list of quick family favorites for those extra hectic times.  Children learn basic cooking skills and to appreciate a variety of foods when they are involved in meal preparation.  Rotate mealtime responsibilities, such as setting the table and clean up.  Try to have a meal with your family  at least several days of the week.  The benefits will out weigh the efforts and these positive childhood memories will be cherished for life!
Editors note:  Jessica Spalding Bickett, MBA, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with Lincoln Trail District Health Department.  Nutrition counseling is available for children and adults by appointment at the Marion County Health Center.  For further information, call (270) 692-3393.