Make fun the most important ingredient in family mealtime with these tips

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FEATURE —  The lazy days of summer are over and school is back in session. This provides families an opportunity to return to a routine and make family meals a priority. With a full schedule of after-school and extracurricular activities, fun may not be on the dinnertime menu. What if it was?

Stock image | Photo by gorodenkoff/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Fun is the ingredient that will make your family mealtimes a success. The Family Dinner Project tells us that families are more likely to connect in a meaningful way when mealtimes are enjoyable and relaxing. Here are some wonderful ideas from the The Family Dinner Project to keep dinnertime fun.

Find the middle ground

A perfect dinner every single night is not a reality. Dinner doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing event. It’s about finding middle ground that works for all members of the family.

If dinner as a family seven nights a week will never work for your family, how about four? What about one or two? Start somewhere! If weeknight schedules are too busy, eat together on the weekend or have family breakfast instead. Throw away the pressure to be perfect, and just enjoy eating together.

Forget the cooking 

A hot meal on the table every night isn’t a reality for most families. The food you see is much less important than the quality of conversation. Do what you can to serve a healthy meal, and think of engaging with your family as the important part. Click here for our conversation starters to get your family talking.

Play with your food 

If you have young kids at home, you might find success in letting table manners slide. Sure, it’s important to teach your kids those lessons for when they grow up, but it’s okay to let them slide sometimes, too. Let your kids build their own meal by creating shapes or scenes with their food. Search online for kids’ food art. You’ll find plenty of ideas to get started.

Stock photo courtesy of USU Extension Create Better Health blog, St. George News

Aim for balance

Family mealtime isn’t perfect, nor is it expected to be. Sometimes extracurricular activities, supporting a family member at a sports event or even a work assignment trump dinnertime. It’s all about finding balance.

Some nights the whole family will be together. Some nights you won’t be able to eat as a family. Some nights the dinner will be home-cooked, nutritious and delicious. Some nights the dinner will be pizza from a takeout restaurant (with a large green salad on the side, of course!), and that’s okay. If you aim for balance rather than giving up altogether, you’ll have a more successful family dinnertime.

Here’s a quick recipe for harvest cobb salad to throw together for your next family mealtime. It is a delicious recipe using fruits that are in season and likely to be on sale this time of year.

For more tips to make family mealtime a success, click here. Enjoy!

Written by CANDI MERRITT, Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador.

This article originally appeared Sept. 6, 2021 on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.

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