As an adult, to be completely honest, I rarely have family dinner nights. It’s not that I don’t love them, but Roark and my schedules are so crazy right now that usually we have dinner while relaxing in front of the TV before he has to jet off to work at the recording studio. It’s a shame too, because most nights I normally spend an hour preparing a delicious homemade dinner that is mindlessly eaten in 15 minutes on the couch.
This summer, while on vacation at a beautiful resort in Mexico, we had all our meals at the table. It was such a nice change and gave us time to connect and bond. When we made it back to The States, we tried to make sitting at the table more of a priority, but our efforts have been slowly dwindling again.
Having dinner at the table is truly a part of a whole foods lifestyle and something I should make more of a priority. Sitting down at the table gives you the opportunity to enjoy your food. In America, it seems we have gotten away from the ritual of eating. Most of our meals are eaten behind a desk or on-the-go in the car. It’s important for us to connect with our food, beyond preparing it, and giving it the proper attention it deserves. By sitting at a table, we are more in tune with our taste buds and stomachs, consciously enjoying each bite, rather than mindlessly eating.
One of my favorite authors on the subject of food, Mireille Guiliano, author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” says that you should take as long to eat your food as it takes for your to prepare it. I love this concept since it encourages us to give our food and it’s maker the proper respect it deserves. The longer a meal takes to make, the more special it becomes, and we should make a fuss over it at the table.
Welch’s, the grape juice company, recently conducted a phone survey of 864 families to learn more about the state of the family meal. (You can view the full results here.) While it was encouraging to see that family meals are a priority among people who responded, the survey found that many families (57 percent of those surveyed) said they wished their family ate dinner together more often; this is a statistic I can definitely relate to.
As for the reasons why family meals were difficult to coordinate, four out of ten families responded with busy schedules. This reason hits close to home and is the major reason Roark and I don’t have family dinner nights often. 40% of families also responded that they also lacked time to cook meals, especially healthy ones.
Because I’m a big believer in the family meal, and really just mindful eating at a table, enjoying food with loved ones, I wanted to come up with some ideas on how we can all work to make this happen more often.
- Start Small– If your family is as busy as mine, schedule dinner nights. Put it on your calendar and make sure everyone knows they are to attend. Start with one night a week, and try to expand from there as you become accustomed to it. Even one night a week will give you time to bond and help form a mindset on healthy eating.
- Make it an Event– Who doesn’t love taco night or having breakfast for dinner?! By doing something different and making your meal special, you will have more of a reason to eat at the table. Make a taco bar, or whip up pancakes where everyone can choose their own mix in (blueberries, strawberries, cocoa nibs). This gets everyone involved in having a good time.
- Set the Stage– Beyond just making the meal exciting, set the table. We like to put out candles so it feels special, and Roark always picks out music. I, of course, like to make it match the theme, so if we’re doing taco night, mariachi or reggaeton it is! Also if you have nice dishes or even tablecloths, now is the time to use them.
- Invite Friends– It’s always easy when it’s just the two of us to cave in on having dinner at the table, since we don’t have kids to disappoint. By inviting friends over for dinner though, we always make that extra effort. Plus, it’s a great way to catch up with friends on the cheap.
- Play 20 Questions– Family meals can feel at bit forced when you first start having them. What are you supposed to talk about? Have everyone chip in and write questions on index cards that everyone can take turns answering while at the table. This is a great way to guide discussion while still getting to bond with everyone. Ideas? Try asking “If you could have dinner with anyone in history who would it be?” Or “If you could visit any period of time just to see what it was like, which time would you choose?”
- Make Dinner Ahead– For those of you that are super busy, try making meals ahead. I plan on writing about this more extensively in the future, but for now you can try two of my favorite meals to whip up on the weekend to have on hand for easy weeknight dinners: Lentil Soup and Shepherd’s Pie.
To help encourage us all to make family dinner a priority, Welch’s is giving away $50 worth of coupons for Welch’s Juice to one lucky reader. Here are all the details:
Answer the following: Answer one of my “Play 20 Questions” questions above. I want to know, so leave your answer in the comments below.
OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL ENTRIES:
1. Subscribe to “An Extra Helping,” my e-newsletter. You can find the place to sign up on the right side navigation bar. Your information is totally private, and I will be using it to send out extra content that will not be on the blog! Leave a separate comment below saying you did so for one additional entry.
2. Follow Welch’s on Twitter- @Welchs. Leave a separate comment below saying you did so for one additional entry. If you already follow Welch’s, let me know in comment too!
Contest will start February 28th and will end March 7th at 11:59 PM EST. Winner will be drawn at random and contacted via email. Winner will have 3 days to respond before another winner is chosen at random. Winner needs to reside in the continental US and must be 18 years old.