The Importance of Meal Planning for Family Meals
Make the family dinner table your favorite gathering place for a healthy you and healthy family!
Cooking from scratch is “the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well-being” ~ Michael Pollan
Nothing brings us closer than sitting down to a family meal together, but gathering everyone together for dinner in the evenings can be challenging.
Modern lives are more complex, and many people make it well into adulthood before really learning how to cook. But a growing body of research indicates that eating together as a family even just several times a week has numerous positive effects on everyone. Read teaching kids to cook early.
What’s more, family meals give us the opportunity to have conversations without the distractions of all our electronic gadgetry – opportunities that are increasingly rare nowadays.
Real, face-to-face conversations are unbeatable for teaching children to listen and giving them the chance to voice their thoughts. And the family dinner table is a much cozier place to share exciting news than social media.
Family Meals Cooked at Home Are Healthier
According to pediatricians at Children’s Hospital St. Louis, eating three or more family meals per week (where at least one parent is present and the meal is prepared at home) results in a significantly lower likelihood of children being overweight. Additionally, the eating habits kids develop as children can last a lifetime, and families that have at least three meals together a week have a 20% lower level of unhealthy food choices.
Eating Together Can Increase Your Children’s Vocabulary
With young children, ordinary dinnertime conversation can make a noticeable positive difference in vocabulary. In fact, this type of conversation increases vocabulary for small children even more than does being read aloud to. Researchers writing for New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development found that young children learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, versus 143 rare words from parents reading storybooks to them. This actually helps kids read earlier and more easily.
Family Meals Can Be Particularly Important for Small Children
As good as family meals can be for young children, they’re perhaps even better for older children. Teen academic performance is positively correlated with having dinner as a family five to seven times per week. Adolescents who regularly had family meals were two times as likely to earn A’s in school as those who had fewer family dinners per week. And, a 2014 study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that adolescents who regularly had family dinners handled cyberbullying better than those who did not.
Done Right, Cleanup Can Be Easier
Sure, it’s more casual to grab something from the kitchen and eat it in front of the television or computer, but that often means you have two rooms to clean instead of one. When you have dinner together as a family, everyone can take the few seconds afterwards to rinse their plates and place them in the dishwasher, or you can rotate through family members for washing and drying dishes. This is far easier than letting dishes accumulate all over the house and then having to cope when you realize you can’t find a clean fork.
It’s Still the Best Setting for Learning Manners
Table manners may not be as strict as they once were, but they’re still important. There’s no better place to teach children manners than around the family dinner table. The common sense etiquette kids learn at the family table carries over into school interactions, and later on, into personal relationships and work interactions. Even if you don’t explicitly teach which fork to use or putting a napkin in your lap, your kids will learn from your example, and these lessons can really stick.
Weekly Family Meal Planning Helps All Other Meal Preparations Fall Into Place
Family meals don’t have to be complicated or involve elaborate preparation. Even a “build your own sandwich” night offers family closeness and the opportunity for sharing and conversation. When you plan weekly family meals ahead, you’ll find that much of the rest of your meal preparations fall into place.
Microwavable leftovers can go to work with you the next day, saving you money while offering something healthier than typical lunch fare. Some of the chicken you roasted earlier can be set aside for sandwiches or salads. Best of all, you’ll find it easier to provide your family with the variety of foods that leads to healthier lives.
Healthy Meal Planning
You should be consuming healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates at each meal. Multiple health authorities recommend that about 20% to 35% of your total calories should come from fat,
and the same amount from protein. The remaining 30% 60% of your daily calories should be provided in the form of healthy carbohydrates.
Plan for this. These are the 3 most important nutrients your body needs regularly. They need to be replaced on a daily basis. Rookie meal planners often miss out on one or more of these important
health boosters, and your health can take a negative turn if you do.
Remember the 3 –
– Healthy Fats
Healthy fats help your body absorb vitamins, they provide a protective cushion for your vital organs, and it can be stored as an energy source for use later. Totally avoid trans fats, limit your saturated fats, and focus on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to keep your cholesterol down.
Like carbohydrates, protein provides energy. Protein is harder to break down than fat or carbs, so when you eat foods with protein, you feel full longer. This helps you regulate how many calories you eat throughout the day. Accordingly, a high-protein diet that cuts back on carbohydrates is a great way to lose weight. About 20% to 35% of your daily caloric intake should be in the form of protein.
Every cell in your body requires protein, and the more active you are, the more protein you will need. Someone who is extremely active could require as much as twice the protein of someone who is sedentary. Protein can be found in plant-based foods, and animal-based foods contain much higher levels of this essential macronutrient.
and Complex Carbohydrates.
You need somewhere between 30% and 60% of your calories to come from complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are translated to fat and stored almost immediately, so you want to avoid them. This means opting for carbs found in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, as opposed to processed foods, starchy food, fast food, pastries and other unhealthy options. Vegetables, beans, plant foods and fruits make excellent complex carbohydrate choices.
Understand that protein and carbohydrates deliver about 4 cal per gram of weight. Fat weighs in at a heavy 9 cal per gram, but again, sugar is the culprit that makes you overweight and obese, not fat. In a 2,000 calorie daily dietary plan, the above ranges would mean the following:
- Fat – 100 – 175 grams
- Protein – 100 – 175 grams
- Carbs – 150 – 300 grams
Understand that everyone is different. Your body works differently than anyone else’s. You are going to have to play around with these percentages until you find out what works for you and your family.
The Importance of Meal Planning –
In a nutshell, planning out family meals leads to more home-cooked healthy meals and more meals together as a family unit.
Don’t know where to start? DinnerPlanner.com can help, with great ideas and recipes for making the family dinner table your favorite gathering place.
Also read about the Benefits of Meal Planning!