2018-05-02 / Society

Make more time for family meals

Numerous studies have shown that children who frequently eat dinner with their families benefit from such meals in myriad ways. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University notes that teens who eat dinner with their families between five and seven times per week perform better academically and are less likely to try tobacco and consume alcohol than those who eat dinner with their families three or fewer times per week. Busy parents may think they don't have the time to eat five or more meals with their families each week, but there are ways for even the busiest moms and dads to make more time for family meals.

• Make simple meals. Meals need not be lavish affairs for children to benefit from them. When planning weeknight meals, parents can choose meals that can be prepared and cooked in 30 minutes or less. Meals that can be quickly and easily prepared increase the likelihood that families will sit down together on busy weeknights. Leave more complex meals for the weekend, encouraging kids to help in the preparation of such meals.

• Make meals in advance. Meal preparation can take a lot of time, discouraging busy parents from preparing homecooked meals on weeknights. But when planning menus, parents can choose recipes that can be prepared on weekends, placed in the freezer and then defrosted and cooked on weeknights.

• Use a slow cooker. Slow cookers can make weeknight family dinners more manageable. Many slower cooker recipes do not require much time to prepare. Before leaving for work in the morning, parents can place all the necessary ingredients in their slow cookers, set the timer and then arrive home to find cooked meals waiting for them. If recipes require potentially time-consuming chopping and dicing, prepare the night before their family meals, and store items in the refrigerator.

• Order takeout. Though it can be costly for families to make takeout part of their weekly routines, takeout provides another way for families to enjoy meals together at home. When ordering takeout, parents who want to provide nutritious meals for their children should skip fast food in favor of healthier fare from nearby restaurants, grocery stores or diners.

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