Family meals can be rare in some homes. Busy lives with working parents, overfilled schedules, along with not knowing how to cook can all promote not eating a family meal. Sometimes the tension in a household makes it easier to start eating in front of the tv rather than engaging with family members.
A study from the Journal of Adolescent Health suggest that the frequency of family dinner is an external developmental asset or protective factor that may curtail high-risk behaviors among youth. Family rituals such as regular mealtimes may ease the stress of daily living in the fast-paced families of today’s society.”
Another study in the Oxfords Journal of Health Education Reseach found that “Frequency of eating a family meal was associated with a reduced likelihood of all risk behaviours among girls and all but fighting and having sex among boys. Eating a family meal regularly nullified the association between family structure and drinking alcohol for boys and girls and cannabis use for boys and reduced the effect size of alternative family structures on boys having sex and smoking.”
These are only two out of mulitple studies that have found that family meals can help decrease risky behaviors among teens. For teens with diabetes, risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug use can complicate blood sugars. Decreasing this risk is important for all teens, not just those with diabetes. Family meals has been shown in multiple studies to decrease risky behaviors. Your diabetic child’s siblings can also benefit from family meals.Children and adolescents with diabetes are at an increaed risk for depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. One study reported over 30% of youth with type 1 diabetes meet the criteria for a psychiatric disorder.
Eating disorders are reported to be twice as common in adolescent females with type 1 diabetes as their healthy counterparts. Family meals is one way to decrease the risk of eating disorders.
With all the pros for eating family meals, here’s some tips on how to implement it into your lives:
- Aim for whatever meal matches your family. When we talk about family meals, most people think of a supper meal. But frequently sports, music, or school activities can run into that time making it difficult. Choose breakfast if that makes more sense for your family, or if you are a homeschooling family or home during the day, you could choose lunch.
- You don’t have to do it everyday to see the benefits of decreasing risk. Aim for more meals as a family each week than not. Small steps can add up to big change!
- Let your kids help cook. They need to learn lifeskills like cooking anyway. Depending on their age, they could wash vegetables, cut vegetables, or actually cook the food. They can also help by setting the table.
- Let your children help make the menu. If they have some say in what they eating, they are more likely to eat it, and especially if they help make it. Need help with menus? I have a subscription to a years worth of meals that include the recipes, shopping lists, and even nutrition facts so you know how many carbs are in the foods. This is a great resource made by dietitians for families with children. There are some cool recipes for kids in here plus many videos and tutorials on shopping, menu planning, cooking and more! You can try it out for a month and see if you like it! Click here to see the menus! (Disclosure: This is an affiliate link where I make a small commission from sales. You are not paying more for the product. I only endorse products that I have used and love!)
- Keep some go-to meals on hand. Family meals do not have to be fancy. Find something easy or even do sandwiches, fingerfoods, even appetizers or take-out. Any foods you are eating together as a family count. I keep a list on my fridge of 5 easy to make meals that I usually have all the ingredients on hand. We also have what we call CORD:Clean Out the Refrigerator Day. Everyone just chooses leftovers and it’s like a potluck.
- Keep the conversation fun and do not use this time to argue. Here’s a link to a great tool that my kids absolutely loved when they were smaller. It is a printable deck of Conversation Cards with questions that you go around the table and let everyone answer. The rule is that everyone has to listen and appreciate the other’s perspectives. Sara even recently commented saying she missed the cards we used to do when we ate. (She’s a teen now.)
- Double up what you cook and freeze for another meal. I have done some freezer meal preps a few times and they are great! It’s so nice to shop and prep all at once and get several weeks of meals that you can just pull out of the freezer and do minimal work and cook. Some great books I have on freezer cooking are:
Need help with counting carbs for your meal? Here’s a post on Carb Counting Made Easy.
What are some of your favorite meals and family fun ideas? Comment below and share!