It’s important to have family meals as often as possible. There’s little doubt that children benefit from quality mealtime, home cooked meals, balanced menus, role modeling and exposure to new flavors. But let’s face it: Parents who lead busy urban lives can’t always make this happen.
Have I ever skipped a family meal? Guilty as charged. Despite the fact that it’s my professional duty to discourage others from doing so on a regular basis, many times, family meals just aren’t realistic. Both my husband and I, for example, work late several nights a week (I’ve recently cut back from three to two nights a week in the office), and between social events (whether professional, academic or with friends) and our own date nights, Sunday and Monday are the only days left where we can consistently sit down for family meals.
I try to practice this reasoning as a professional RD and am realistic regarding other New Yorker’s lifestyles as well as my own. Overall, I believe in looking at the whole picture when it comes to how we choose to raise our kids, and in my own household, the time we spend together is about quality, not quantity.
Does this make my husband and I—and other fellow socially and professionally active parents—irresponsible? No. But when I started Mom Dishes It Out, I promised to give you honest accounts of my family’s experiences in the kitchen. So I’m telling it to you straight; whether I applaud this type of behavior or not, this is my reality.
Rise and Shine: Breakfast
My boys, Billy and Bobby, have fallen into the pattern of eating breakfast on the couch while ogling their favorite TV shows. I know: I should probably lie here. Food in the living room? As an RD, I’m like my own worst nightmare.
Hubby is already working when we wake up on school days, so most mornings, I’ll try to sit with the boys during breakfast on the couch. Sometimes we move to the dining room table. Sometimes we don’t.
On weekends, we eat breakfast as a family—a habit we try to maintain. We’ll make organic whole grain pancakes and eat them together at the table—well, most of the time. On Sunday, my husband takes over as chef and cooks up a healthy omelet, or the kids and I stick to cereal and yogurt. Either way, we try to use this time to expose the boys to a balanced menu of delicious and wholesome morning foods like eggs, veggies, lox, cheeses, breads and hot sauce—even if they only lick them.
Midday Meal: Lunch
The boys obviously eat lunch at school. Unlike most cafeterias that are filled with chips, candy and donuts, both Billy and Bobby’s schools do not provide lunch. Thank goodness.
I’m the gatekeeper of their lunches, and I take this opportunity to pack their bags with nutritious meals and snacks based on my own judgments. Better yet, their schools encourage parents to supply healthful foods, so my kids are less likely to be exposed to cookies and chips as snacks. If yours are, it’s not the end of the world.
Nighttime Noshing: Dinner
Dinner with the dietitian can be limited since, as I said, my evening schedule is pretty packed. Twice weekly, I’m in the office until 9:30 meeting clients who can’t see me during the workday. The nights I’m not able to eat at home are somewhat nondescript. Billy and Bobby chomp down their dinner on the couch while watching television or sitting with their caregiver at the dining room table. It’s nothing spectacular, and I’m really just concerned with making sure they eat a semi-nutritious meal.
We try to reserve Sunday and Monday to eat dinner together as a family. During a typical family dinner, the kids eat their preferred foods while my hubby and I stick to ours. (I’ve yet to convince the boys that salmon with wheat berries and grilled asparagus is more enticing than grilled chicken.)
Since Billy and Bobby typically get hungry before us, they usually eat dinner earlier in the evening and then continue to nosh on a light snack (if they’re still hungry) with their dad and I at the dinner table. And trust me, we make the most of our time together.
How often do you sit down with your kids for a family dinner? Are there some meals that are easier than others to eat together? Do your kids eat the same dinner as you do, or do you cook (or serve) separate meals?