Your regularly scheduled family meal doesn’t have to end in hackneyed conversations about how school went and forced small talk over lasagna. Oftentimes, that all-too-familiar awkward dinner scene plays out when you’re out of practice – if “family quality time” happens infrequently to begin with, then you should expect some “growing pains” from attempting to re-facilitate that communication out of the blue. Nightly, or even weekly shared meals, however, can contribute to healthier, more open relationships over time. We’ve all been guilty of skimping out on the family bonding every now and then, but you know you’ve struck gold when your child gives you back more than a one-word response when you ask, “So, how did that exam go?” This transition can be admittedly difficult at first – and home-cooked meals are notoriously daunting, especially when catering to a hungry house of picky eaters. But, that’s why we recommend starting with a meal out to kick-start the habit (and cut down on the cleanup).
1) You start looking forward to it.
A restaurant meal can incentivize everyone’s weeks, and your kids are more likely to shift their schedules around to accommodate the promise of going out. You can still moderate what your kids eat, within reason, while allowing them free reign on their choice of starter or entre. A consistent reward at the end of a busy work week also serves to reduce anxiety and stress levels.
2) It betters child development.
Your children are also more likely to indulge in nutritious options, like fruits and vegetables, and less likely to order unhealthy alternatives (soda, etc.) while in your presence. If your little ones are still young, dinnertime conversation can optimize vocabulary retention and learning. Regardless of age, this gesture shows that you’re willing to make time for them – and this quality time could build your children’s sense of belonging, lessening the likelihood of depression and serious emotional issues down the line. Additionally, eating as a family can actually improve your children’s grades in school. When you make a point to sit down with them every week or so, you have a better idea of what’s going on in their lives.
3) You can (successfully) convince your kids to eat healthier.
When sitting across the table from your kids, you can effectively control portion size and vegetable-to-fatty foods. Also, your children are more likely to experiment and try new foods while out with you – so, eating out might expand their palates over time.