The one place children used to share stories from their day-the family dinner table-threatens to become a thing of the past.
This became evident in a recent Mom Central survey. Although 98% of Moms surveyed think children benefit from eating meals at the table with their families on a regular basis, only 61% of Moms said their families sit down everyday at the table for dinner.
This month, Sara Evans and Libby’s Vegetables celebrate Get Back to the Table Month – an acknowledgement of the many social and economic benefits of family dinnertime. It’s a great opportunity for you to gather the family around the dinner table and take advantage of the benefits of family dinnertime.
Top 5 Reasons to Get Back to the Table
Longing for the days when the entire family sat around the dinner table for a meal? Libby’s canned vegetables make it easy to pull together quick, convenient and cost-effective meals on a budget so that you can spend less time cooking and more time conversing with your family around the dinner table.
A host of studies show that eating dinner together has many benefits beyond getting everyone in the same place at the same time. Here are five really good reasons why sharing a meal with your family is good for the stomach and the soul.
1. You Could Get an A+: Research shows that children who eat dinner with their families five or more times a week are more likely to have higher grades in school – regardless of gender, family structure or economic status.
2. It’s Easier to Say No to Drugs: According to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, frequent family meals have been linked to a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using marijuana. When you spend more time with your kids at the dinner table, it’s easier to spot changes in behavior and develop a better relationship with them.
3. Good Conversation Builds Confidence: Researchers at Emory University found that pre-teens whose parents tell family stories at dinner have higher self-esteem and get along better with their peers during their teen years.
4. Eating at the Table Means Eating Better: A University of Minnesota study found that kids in families who watched TV while eating meals together had a poorer diet than children whose families ate together around a table. Boys who watched TV while eating ate fewer vegetables and grains and drank more soft drinks while girls who watched TV ended up eating fewer dark vegetables and more fried food.
5. It’s Good for Girls: Studies show that teenage girls who ate five or more meals per week with their families were less likely to resort to extreme dieting measures such as self-induced vomiting, diet pills or laxatives. This was true regardless of socioeconomic status, body mass index or family connectedness.
Hannah Keeley’s Family Mealtime Strategies
Total Mom, Hannah Keeley, takes a break and gets frank about the tips, tricks and tales related to gathering the family around the dinner table each night.
Get Back to the Table (GBT): Hi, Hannah! Let’s start with the question on everyone’s mind: do you take all seven kids with you to the grocery store?
Hannah Keeley (HK): Most of the time, I do. It’s great because we all have jobs to do and they are a big help. The older kids scatter in the produce section and collect our fresh fruits and vegetables. The younger ones help pick out the groceries with pictures on them, such as canned peas, green beans and corn as well as cereals.
GBT: What is an average weekly grocery bill for the Keeley family?
HK: Probably between $150-$200. When we had only a few children, I could easily keep it around $100/week, but now I feel like I’m feeding a small army. Plus, teenagers are notorious for being bottomless pits! I keep my grocery bill lower by buying food that’s good quality and great value, like Libby’s canned vegetables.
GBT: If you had to whip up a family dinner in 10 minutes using only what is in your pantry, could you do it? What foods would you use?
HK: Absolutely! And there have been plenty of meals when I have done just that. I often buy in bulk, so we always have plenty of broths, beans and grains that stock our pantry. Plus, I always keep staples like Libby’s French-cut green beans and corn handy, which help cut down on preparation time.
GBT: You have a lot of great recipes on your Web site, TotalMom.com. What is often your inspiration when developing these recipes for your family?
HK: I love to cook with my children, so I’m naturally drawn to kid-friendly recipes that get the whole family in the kitchen cooking together. I also strive to create meals that are healthy and economical.
GBT: With nine mouths to feed each night, it’s no surprise that you have a lot of hearty soups and stew recipes. Do you have any tricks for cutting prep time in the kitchen?
HK: I have a few tricks up my sleeve! I look for recipes that can be prepared with minimal effort and still get maximum results. I will often double a recipe so that half can be frozen and stored for another evening. Forget rolling out perfect biscuits for sides. I just drop my dough in little mounds on a baking sheet! And, of course, Libby’s canned vegetables help me cut the time I spend preparing ingredients for soups and stews.
GBT: What is family dinnertime like in the Keeley house? Who cooks? Who cleans?
HK: I can honestly say, we’re all in this together. We all cook. We all clean. Of course, the kids don’t always clean like I would, but the most important thing is that we are all involved in the process. Mealtime is a family event, start to finish. Plus, my husband and I really feel like we know our kids. Dinnertime is when we get to learn about their likes and dislikes, their friends and experiences at school. If one is having a problem or wants to share a personal story, we have time set aside each day to listen to each other, offer advice and, most importantly, have a great time.
GBT: Are there any foods that your kids just will not eat? Do you have any tricks for making sure that even the pickiest eaters get a nutritious meal?
HK: Of course there are. I try to be sensitive to their unique likes and dislikes as much as possible. And I’m constantly looking for ways to make healthy foods have more kid appeal. I’m also a pretty sneaky mom—slipping black beans into their brownies or putting cut carrots into their soups.
Click HERE for a Seven Day Family Dinner Planner.