Invite the Family to Dinner at Home

— Written By Christine Smith and last updated by Kim Davis

Family mealtime as we knew it is becoming a thing of the past. Let’s face it, families are busier than ever. After-school activities, late workdays, long commutes — it’s no wonder few families eat dinner together. Being active can be invigorating but don’t let it be a detriment to your family’s health.

The family dinner hour is an important part of a healthy living. Research shows that when families eat together they consume more vegetables and fruits, fewer fried foods, and less soda. And, younger kids who frequently eat dinner with their families are less likely to be overweight than other children. That fact along should motivate parents to get back into the kitchen to serve up healthy options.

For those of you who think you don’t have time to cook here are a few things that may motivate you to get back in the kitchen to serve up a meal or two.

  • Make Time for Meals.  Establish a family dinner schedule. Set aside time for all family members to gather for one meal every day. If this sounds too difficult, start with one meal each week and build from there. Commit to making family meals a priority.
  • Team Up for Food Prep.  Encourage children to help with meal planning and preparation. Ask each family member to determine the menu for one meal each week. Set guidelines for the meals so they include a variety of food.
  • Let Your Teen Be Head Chef. Let your teen invite a friend over for dinner and ask the two of them to put together a meal for your family. Teens enjoy doing things with their friends and they’ll be excited to show off their talents in the kitchen.
  • Prepackaged Produce. Make use of prepackaged salads, fruits and vegetables. They will cost more but, for some busy parents, it’s worth it.
  • Microwave Veggies.  Micro waved vegetables retain their bright color, fresh taste, crisp texture and nutrients if cooked with a minimum amount of water. And by microwaving in a serving dish, there’s less cleanup.
  • Use the Freezer. Buying meats, vegetables, breads and other products in quantity doesn’t mean you have to cook them all at once. You can still save money without letting the food go to waste.
  • Spice It Up. Put an emphasis on using fewer ingredients with bolder flavors. When seasoning meat, try simple spice rubs and marinades to add flavor without extra fat.
  • Plant a Family Garden. Using the yard or several large pots, invite your children to help plant a family garden. After planting, caring for and harvesting the plants, children are more apt to want to eat the vegetables and fruits.
  • To Grandmother’s House We Go. Encourage your children to learn how to cook with their grandparents. Many grandparents enjoy cooking and would loveto spend more time with their grandchildren. Also, grandparents can often teach children about traditional foods from their heritage.

If you would like additional information on healthy meal ideas or time saving cooking techniques call me at N.C. Cooperative Extension at 731-1525 or you may also access my on line Heart and Soul cookbook at

Thought to Ponder:

“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom.”  Barbara Costikyan

Christine Smith is an Extension Agent in the department of Family & Consumer Sciences with N.C. Cooperative Extension, NCSU,Wayne County. Information on other services available can be found online at or call me at 731-1525 for additional information.