Meal-Time Makeover: 10 Ways to Make Family Meals More Engaging

Family dinner

Make family meals matter

Research and personal experience indicate that families greatly benefit from eating meals together on a regular basis. Families that dine together appreciate their food more, tend to eat healthier food and build stronger interpersonal bonds. But the hectic pace of daily life often makes it challenging for families to eat together. Most of us have busy lives filled with distractions, conflicting schedules and a baseline of unrelenting drudgery at home. (Can you tell I hate doing dishes?)

Although it might seem hard to carve out time to have a meal together, it’s important to try. Keep it simple at first — start with breakfast if you can’t manage dinner. Don’t block your efforts by worrying about recipes and making things perfect. Just set the intention to have enjoyable meals together more frequently. Whether you are getting started with family meals, or feel like your meals have fallen into a rut, here are some ideas for making family meals more enjoyable.

Invite other people over to dinner

I believe nothing does more to create a sense of community, connectedness and old-fashioned sociability than breaking bread with other people. This ancient human activity is a critical component of friendship and adds to our social well-being. My family hosts friends for brunch or dinner at least two times a week, and we go to other people’s houses at least once a week.

When you host other families for meals, you are teaching your children the art of hospitality. They learn to share their home and possessions, act as hosts/hostesses and bond with people other than family (i.e., the wider community). They also experience the exchange of resources and effort that happens when we feed people and they in return feed us. Nearly every morning our daughter asks, “Who’s coming to dinner tonight?” She loves it when other families come to dinner because meals with friends are more fun and (often) zany.

Try not to worry about what you serve, or whether your house is clean or your children “well-behaved enough.” Just invite people over and wing it. Conviviality is not a burden or social obligation. It’s entertaining, messy, chaotic and soul-affirming. Just like life!

Next: Create a meal that reflects your ethnic or cultural heritage

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