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Do back-to-school routines, homework, and after school activities make you want to throw in the towel when it comes to fitting in a healthy dinner? Read on to learn the health benefits of a family mealtime and quick solutions for feeding your family well in 30 minutes or less.


Benefits of Family Meals

  • Research shows that family meals offer long-lasting social, academic, and health benefits.
  • Kids who regularly dine with family achieve higher test scores, are a healthier weight, and consume more calcium, fiber, iron, and key vitamins they need to thrive.
  • Teens who eat with their families are less likely to use alcohol or drugs and suffer fewer mental health problems.
  • Family meals promote communication and build valuable face-to-face social skills for a generation that may otherwise spend their time interacting with screens.

Busy family schedules can make it tempting to resort to meals that are fast rather than nourishing. Here are some ways to help bring your family back to the table for a healthy meal, even when time and energy are scarce.

6 Quick Tips for Successful Family Meals

1.Make a Plan:

  • Planning works! It saves time, money, and stress. Take a moment on the weekend to map out meals for the week ahead, and enjoy greater peace of mind all week long.
  • Shop the Sales – build meals from foods on special this week to lower grocery bills.
  • Favorites List - Keep a list of your family’s favorite meals, add new favorites as you discover them. This way you’ll always have tasty meal ideas when you need them.
  • Theme Days - Consider themes like Italian Monday, taco Tuesday, and soup and sandwich Wednesday, breakfast for dinner Thursday, seafood Friday, or rotate among family favorites.

2.Get the Kids Involved:

  • From garden or market to kitchen to table, when kids have ownership over the meal-making process, they are more likely to try new foods and enjoy whatever’s for dinner.
  • Learn together – Meal-making is a great opportunity to teach budgeting, healthy meal planning, gardening if you have one, cooking, teamwork and communication skills. Enhance your child’s development by giving them age-appropriate tasks:
  • Toddlers may help gather, measure, or mix ingredients.
  • Elementary-age kids may look up recipe videos, find family favorites on sale, set the table, or help clean up and store leftovers after a meal.
  • Teens may help share the responsibilities of shopping with a budget, preparing some meals, and helping to delegate tasks or supervise younger helpers.

3.Cook Less Often

  • Save time by making more of what you’re already making so you can enjoy it again.
  • Reuse Ingredients - Cook larger amounts of an ingredient once, and reuse in several different meals. For example:
    • Cook extra chicken to enjoy grilled chicken filets one night, mini chicken potpies another night, and later in soup, chicken salad, or sandwiches.
    • Make extra meatballs to enjoy them on spaghetti, in subs, and later in soup or broken on a pizza.
    • Use casseroles, stews, and omelets to quickly transform any leftovers into a great meal.
  • Make More and Freeze - Foods like ground beef, chicken, rice, beans dishes, soups, pasta sauces, and casseroles freeze great. So later, when you need a quick meal, just pull one of these from the freezer, reheat and serve. Be sure to seal freezer meals tightly and label contents with date for the freshest, tastiest meals.

4.Stock the Pantry

Keep shelf-stable meal solutions handy for those days of the week when your family is more crunched for time and you might otherwise be tempted to eat out. Key meal ingredients to keep on hand include pasta and sauces, beans and grains, canned veggies, fruits, salmon, and soups. These basics can help you bring a meal to the table in minutes!

5.Modify for Multiple Palates

If your family has multiple likes and dislikes, choose easily modifiable meals to meet individual taste preferences. Examples are tacos, personal pita pizzas, or main-dish salads that can be tweaked with everyone’s favorite ingredients to keep your family happy and healthy.

6.Use Short Cuts

  • Save prep time with bagged salads, steam-in-the-bag frozen veggies, minute brown rice, and precut produce.
  • Get a jumpstart to a healthy meal with rotisserie chicken, frozen grilled chicken strips, precooked shrimp, and canned beans.
  • Use that slow cooker. Simply add raw ingredients--veggies, meats, beans, grains, or whatever you like, and let it do the cooking for you. You’ll get a remarkable meal on the table with minimal time or effort. Dinner’s ready!

Family meals offer great health benefits. When life gets busy, you can use these quick tips to simplify family meals and enjoy more time with the ones you love.

To your health!

Andrea Nikolai
, MPH, RDN, LDN, is passionate about making your life better with healthy eating solutions. She is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and a background in marketing, communications, and nutrition. She loves making fun and interesting recipes, traveling, helping others, and spending time in the sun.

is a wife, mother, artist and nature lover. She’s a certified DreamBuilder Coach and former school psychologist and ultramarathoner. Summer is passionate about providing the support you need to realize your dreams and create a life you love.

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