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Family Central: Reinventing Family Dinner

Picture this: your family stars in a hit reality show performing an activity that is now all but extinct. The public can’t wait to watch each week and find out what happens next. You can hardly leave your house without being mobbed by throngs of adoring fans!

So what’s got people tuning in by the millions? The show is called ”Sunday Dinner” and it’s based on a simple yet intriguing concept: your family gathers around the dinner table and (drumroll please)…eats together at the same time and….(here’s the clincher): talks to each other!

The rules are simple: no technology (the audience is shocked to discover that cell phones do not always have to be answered!); everyone helps get food to the table, and family members look each other in the eye and discuss their day.

OK, maybe it’s a stretch to think that eating together as a family could be the basis for a hit show. But one thing is for certain: the family dinner hour is an important aspect of family life that has all but disappeared. Yet myriad benefits ensue when families dine together, including:

  • They tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods, soda and foods with trans fats.
  • Children are less likely to be overweight than their peers.
  • Grades improve at school.
  • Children are less likely to try alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana.
  • Parents and children talk more and you’re more likely to hear about a serious problem.

That might be all well and good, but does getting your family to gather around the dinner table sound more like science fiction than reality show? If the task of preparing a meal from scratch sounds too daunting, remember that the point is to eat a meal and talk to your family with minimal distractions. You may even pick up a chef-prepared meal at FRESH or grab take-out some evenings; what you eat is of secondary importance. Here are some tips to make this fantasy a reality:

  • Set a goal of just once or twice a week.
  • Meals don’t have to be gourmet. Focus on simple family favorites and incorporate fruits and vegetables.
  • Get the entire family involved. You’ll be amazed at the bonds you can create over peeling the carrots or setting the table.
  • Make it fun – Avoid serious discussions during this time and focus on nourishment, comfort and support.

So create your own reality show at home. No need for lights or cameras; there will be plenty of action when you turn off the TV, eat together and get to know each other a little better.

About Vanessa: Guest blogger Vanessa Downey is a Tyler wife, mom, entrepreneur and enthusiastic healthy cook! Vanessa, a former owner of Julian’s in Tyler, frequently writes on family-friendly and healthy-eating topics and often appears in our FRESH Taste Kitchen to share her favorite healthy recipes, hints, and products.