October is Eat Better, Eat Together Month and the perfect time to make family meals a priority. Eating more meals together has a positive effect on both the nutrition and emotional well-being of the entire family. This month (or week), make it a goal to eat one meal together each day. If you’re in a single household, plan for some dinner parties or lunch dates with friends or coworkers.

Three reasons to eat more meals together:

  • Healthy eating behaviors are encouraged. We tend to copy the habits of the people we eat with so be a good role model for the others in your household. If you have children and you want to promote a balanced diet, eat one yourself, in front of them, at the table, on a regular basis.
  • Young children are more likely to try new foods. A study from Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab found that “food neophiles” — individuals that enjoy eating new and different foods — had lower BMIs and were more likely to be concerned about the healthfulness of food than non-adventurous eaters. Looking for something new? Challenge your family to try a new vegetable or fruit every week. DIY nights are another great way to have an assortment of ingredients available to try. Think tacos, pizzas, salads and wraps.
  • Bonds are formed and strengthened. Nightly dinners are a great way to debrief the day, share mini successes and stay engaged in each other’s lives. Everyone seems to have a busy schedule these days so taking an hour to unplug, unwind and communicate without digital distractions can help keep mealtimes interesting and engaging.

Conversation tips:

Some studies have shown that dinner conversations are a potent vocabulary booster and can help build resilience. Avoid battles and keep conversations pleasant. Kids eat better when they’re relaxed. Don’t know what to talk about? Try some of these conversation starters.

  • What is one way you helped someone today?
  • What was the best thing about your day?
  • What is your favorite thing to do as a family?
  • Complete this statement. The best day of the past week was _____
  • What is your favorite month of the year and why?
  • If you had one superhero power, what would it be and why?
  • If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

By keeping the flow of communication open you’ll build trust, accountability, healthy habits, and uncover real issues to get behind as a family.

Take the time this October to start a family tradition of eating together and eating better.

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Kristin Bogdonas is the nutrition & wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark Counties. To contact her about health and wellness programs, call 309-756-9978.