Family mealtime. Mealtime with my husband, 3.5 yr old and 1.5 yr old is far from harmonious and inviting.  You probably aren’t begging for a dinner invitation. Tossed sippy cups, spaghetti noodles stuck to a child’s forehead, and refusing to be thankful or say grace is pretty predictable at our table.  I could choose to eat at after the kids go to bed, but my husband and I eat at the painfully early hour of 5 pm so we can eat as a family.

We practice this tradition because we believe in the power of family mealtime. Eating together as a family is one of the strongest predictors of school performance, less involvement in risky behaviors, and maintenance of a healthy weight.  For our young family, it is also a time to teach gratitude, emulate good manners and positive table talk, and display adventurous eating by trying new foods.

As my children grow, so will the dynamic at dinner. Dinner will be later and will revolve around busier schedules, random babble will turn into real conversations, and sippy cups will be no more. However, carving out this time to connect will remain a priority.

If you are seeking more ways to connect with your family around the table here are 4 strategies to try:

1. Connect anywhere: Connecting can happen at a restaurant, at breakfast vs. dinner or even in the car on the way to a game.

2. Get the convo started with the rose and thorn approach: For tongue-tied teenagers who prefer to eat in silence, try the rose and thorn conversation starters and share the roses (highs) or thorns (lows) of everyone’s day.

3. Involve: Involve children in the meal planning process. A toddler might be able to choose between carrots and peas, and a teenager can help plan each Meatless Monday dinner idea. Kids will be more inclined to try a new food and enjoy the meal if they had their hand in it

4. Keep it positive – while it may be tempting to talk about the C- on a report card, save those conversations for another time. We want our kids to feel safe and look forward to coming to the table.

Enjoy your own precious family mealtimes– aren’t the moments that go wrong often the most memorable ones? Keep those spaghetti noodles flying…

Basil & Lemon Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers

With the warming weather, it is time to dust off the BBQ grill and bite into a tasty turkey burger recipe.  While turkey burgers have the reputation of being a dry and bland, the addition of goat cheese and lemon juice imparts a juicy bright flavor that tastes like spring.


  • 1 # ground turkey breast
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ small onion or ¼ large
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ lemon juice
  • ½ t. lemon zest
  • 2 oz. lemon or honey goat cheese
  • ½ t. ground pepper
  • Olive oil/cooking spray

Combine wheat bread, garlic clove, onion, basil in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Mix food processor ingredients with egg, lemon juice & zest, goat cheese, and salt & pepper. Shape into 8- 4 oz. burgers and sauté in pan with warmed olive oil or cooking spray or grill. Juices will run clear when burgers are fully cooked. Poultry should always be cooked to 165 degrees.

Top with avocado and spicy mustard!

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.