Eat Together! ... It Makes a Difference!

The average family meal lasts barely 20 minutes, but few other settings in family life have such potential to influence children's behavior and development. When families eat meals together regularly, children and teens get better grades in school; develop healthier eating habits; are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs; are less likely to have eating and/or nutrition problems; and are more likely to discuss serious issues with their parents. 

Tips for Making Family Meals a Reality:

  • Schedule times when all family members can eat together. A family meal does not always need to be home cooked.  Consider breakfast or weekend meals if dinnertime is too difficult.
  • Have family members participate in the planning, preparing, cooking, and cleanup. Prepare meals that don't require a lot of time and effort.  
  • Prepare some or all of the meal in advance. Double recipes and freeze some meals, so you have something on hand in the freezer. Consider using a slow cooker, such as a Crock-Pot ® so the meal is ready when you get home. Pre-cut vegetables and bagged salads make quick and easy side dishes.

Ideas for Making Mealtime Positive:

  • Once in a while, try to make some meals extra-special (for example, picnic night, candlelight dinner, make-your-own-pizza night, breakfast-for-dinner night, or other special theme meals).
  • Turn off the TV, computers, cell phones, and MP3 players.
  • Allow everyone the opportunity to speak and to be heard.
  • Keep the conversation positive. Some ideas for conversation starters are:
         - What was the best/worst part of your day?
         - What are you thankful for today?
         - If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
         - If you could become any animal in the world, which one would you want to be? Why?
         - Finish the sentence "I wish someone had told me..."
         - What would like to invent?

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Eat Together! materials were developed by the Protective Factors Work Group of the Rockland County School Health and Wellness Coalition. Work Group members include: Child Care Resources of Rockland, Clarkstown Central School District PTA Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland County, Dinner Together, EPIC, Rockland County Department of Health, Rockland County Department of Social Services, and Rockland 21st Century Collaborative for Children.