By: Jodie Shield, RD
How can you possibly squeeze dinner into your family routine? These strategies can help you put dinner on the table most nights of the week and, better yet, make it an experience worth repeating.
Communicate the date. Pull out the family calendar and, along with your family, pencil in what time dinner is going to be served each night. This will make eating together more of a priority. And remember, dinner doesn’t need to be served at the same time each night; the key is that everyone is able to attend. If eating together every night is too overwhelming, aim for one night a week and add more meals over time.
Plan menus in advance. To avoid that last-minute “what’s-for-dinner?” syndrome, once a week, jot down some meals that your family would like to eat. Family input is key in helping to relieve the time-deprived chef of comments like, “I don’t like that!” Also, use MyPlate to help you plan your menus, and try to offer at least one food from each of the food groups. Consider dinner your “sweeper” meal – - your child’s last chance to meet his daily food group requirements.
Keep it simple. use prepackaged products like pasta sauces and ready-to-eat-salad bags, or create a buffet of leftovers when you’re in a hurry.
Disconnect distractions. Make conversation part of the dining experience. Tune into your family by turning off the television set and cell phones.
Be a fair “taskmaster.” Adults can be in charge of the entree; older kids can toss a salad; little ones can set the table. With everyone pitching in, there’s more time for catching up with one another.
The key to establishing a healthy dinner routine is commitment. Which of the family dinner strategies are you going to try tonight?