When everyone from your great aunt to the morning talk show host is talking about their New Years Resolutions for 2019, it’s easy to get sucked onto the clean eating, exercising more, losing weight . . . train. I think it’s great to take better care of ourselves in the new year, but let’s think bigger. Let’s not just take better care of ourselves, but instead the whole family. And it’s as simple as sitting down at the table together for dinner.

The benefits of family meals for children are incredible (better academic performance, higher self-esteem, lower risk of depression, and so many more), but let’s not forget about the benefits for parents too. Cooking dinner at home at enjoying a meal around the table with your family leads to better and healthier food choices for you too! Start with a plan in 2019 and you’ll surely see benefits all year long.

Set aside time each week to look at your calendar and plan meals.

Family life can be hectic. Your oldest has soccer on Tuesdays at 6:00 PM. Your youngest has hockey on Friday at 7:00 PM. You need a plan for the week and a shopping list to go with it. Find a day that works for you. For me, it’s easiest to plan meals on Sunday afternoon or evening. Now, write “Meal Planning” at that time on the calendar. Schedule the time and you’re more likely to do it! Look at your calendar. See what’s coming up and plan dinners accordingly. Maybe you need a crockpot meal for Tuesday, because you’ll never have time to get dinner ready between pick up and drop off. Maybe you need a sheet pan meal for Friday because you’ll have time for a quick early dinner, but no time for clean up. See what lies ahead and make a plan for each day. You’re evenings will feel so much smoother, I promise.

Start simple.

Family meals do not have to involve complex recipes. If you aren’t in the habit of cooking dinner regularly, start with what you already know. Store-bought marinara sauce, whole wheat spaghetti, and steamed (frozen) green beans is a fantastic place to start! Once you are in the habit of cooking more, branch out and try something new.

Plan your shopping trip.

Just like you scheduled your meal planning time, don’t forget about the grocery shopping. Even if you use grocery delivery services (which are amazingly helpful, btw), set aside the time in your day to focus on getting everything on your list. Just like with meal planning, if it’s on the calendar you’ll be more likely to do it and your weeks will be so much smoother because of it.

Be Flexible.

If today ended up being a late day at work, swap dinners with another night that was fast and easy. It’s okay to rearrange your week. If you’ve done the planning and the shopping, everything you need will be there and you’ll be less likely to swing by the drive through on your way home.

Cheers to more happy family dinners in 2019! If you have concerns or more questions about family dinners, let’s chat!

Mary Wissmann

Mary Wissmann is our weight management and family nutrition guru. As a Registered Dietitian for over 11 years, she has worked with individual clients, conducted research, taught community nutrition and health programs, and led many community health initiatives. She spent 7 years as a university faculty member, which provided her with extensive experience reading and interpreting the latest nutrition and health research. If you are interested in working with Mary, please visit our contact page.