September is the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Family Meals Month™. What do you like best about family meals and what are the benefits of getting the family together around the dining room table?
To answer that question, I thought I’d try to think of great examples of families that would eat dinner together and where else would you begin but to examine the dining habits of great American TV families. It’s interesting to Google “Greatest TV Families” and look at the results. I was thinking I’d get shows like “Leave It To Beaver” and “The Brady Bunch.” (I guess I’m showing my age there but, honest, I only saw them on reruns! <wink>)
Interestingly, here are some of the TV shows whose “families” make Google’s list:
- Modern Family
- All In The Family
- Arrested Development
- The Addams Family
- The Sopranos
The Sopranos? How many of these families would you like to dine with?
Interestingly, Leave It To Beaver does not show up in my Google search. Gee Wally.
What’s Important About Family Meals
Back in the Golden Age of TV, the family always had dinner together, dad wearing his tie, mom wearing her dress and the kids all nicely attired and attentive.
Even I’m not old enough to remember wearing a suit and tie to the dinner table. But I do remember that most nights, my family would gather around the dinner table and catch up on school and work activities. They’re fond memories of bonding and good food. We’d have chicken, hamburgers and, my favorite, beef stroganoff, along with fresh veggies including broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and peas. Once in a while we’d get a baked potato and, typically, my mom would make a salad. (If we ate all of that, we could have ice cream and fresh strawberries for dessert.)
But, today, with both mom and dad typically working and kids having a bevvy of extracurricular activities, getting together for a family meal even once a week can be difficult. Instead of sitting around the dining room table, we often nuke something frozen in the microwave and eat it while standing and staring at our cell phone or grab something and go. (Who eats while driving their cars? Be honest!)
Why is FMI Promoting Family Meals Month?
According to FMI, National Family Meals Month is a food retail industry-wide movement to raise awareness of the benefits of frequent family meals with the goal of one family meal per week. According to FMI, the benefits of family meals include:
- Home-cooked meals nourish the spirit, brain, and health of all family members
- Family meals have been shown to have a positive impact on the nutrition status, health, and well-being of the entire family
- Regular family meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes that we want for our children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behavior
Better Nutrition Too
FMI cites research stating that “eating family dinner was associated with healthful dietary intake patterns; including more fruits and vegetables, less fried food and soda, less saturated and trans fat, lower glycemic load, more fiber and micronutrients from food, and no material differences in red meat or snack foods.” Additionally, FMI states “Children and adolescents who have family meals 3 or more times per week are more likely to have a normal weight and eat healthier than those who had less than 3 family meals.”
So, a home-prepared meal of proteins, fruits and vegetables can improve the health of our bodies, minds and spirits.
FMI cites a wealth of supporting research on their website for better grades and health, improved self-esteem, lower likelihood of using drugs or alcohol and improved communications between family members.
Family meals also foster good habits. Fresh veggies and salads are among my favorite foods to this day. And, my wife and I make a concerted effort to put away the computers and phones and turn off the TV and catch up while we have dinner during the week. And, of course, she loves hearing my stories about how Zest Fresh helps ensure fruits and vegetables are always fresh when we buy them and that it they’ll have sufficient shelf-life for families to enjoy.
It’s too bad Zest Fresh wasn’t around back when the Cleavers had dinner. But, while they didn’t have Zest Fresh, they did have interesting dinner conversations, like when Mrs. Cleaver cooked pork ribs:
Ward Cleaver: Well, you boys are very quiet tonight. What are you thinking about?
“Beaver” Cleaver: I was just thinkin’ what I’d do if I was a pig eatin’ peoples’ ribs.
June Cleaver: Beaver, please.
Leave it to Beaver to say the strangest things. If you have any favorite dinner-table conversations, please email them to me at email@example.com.