This post was sponsored by the FMI Foundation, but all ideas and opinions are my own.

Do you remember life before the pandemic when work schedules, school schedules, and activities all made it a struggle to have a family meal? One good thing to come out of our current situation is that most of us are spending way more time together as a family, including meals. 

September is National Family Meals Month. The current situation may mean that you are eating more meals together, whether you want to or not. In fact, a new study, “Home Cooking in America 2020,” funded by the FMI Foundation reports that during the global COVID-19 pandemic, 40% of American adults say they are cooking more. Over 20% of adults say they are planning more meals in advance and 18% are trying new dishes more often. 

Celebrating National Family Meals Month

As someone who does most of the meal prep in my house, I know that all this family mealtime can be a little exhausting. But, I also know that it’s great, not just for physical health and financial health (everyone eating something different at a different time gets expensive), but for mental health as well. Family meals make families stronger. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB) underscores that family meals are a valuable contributor to helping families be more connected and have better communication and problem-solving. We are living through a crisis right now, and the more connected we can be with each other, the better for us and our kids. In fact, thousands of scientific studies have proved that more frequent family meals are associated with better dietary outcomes and family functioning outcomes.

Celebrating National Family Meals Month

Interestingly, September is both National Family Meals Month and National Fruit and Veggies Month! This is more than a coincidence.

Celebrating National Family Meals Month

The JNEB study also shows that people who eat more family meals together consume more fruits and vegetables. That doesn’t mean that every meal has to be a vegan health fest. You should feel free to mix it up. Let your kids take turns picking what’s for dinner, and even cooking dinner themselves. Cooking is a life skill for kids, and for those who feel like the “school from home” curriculum is getting a little dull, cooking also teaches important concepts of science, math, and creativity. The important thing isn’t what you eat, but that you eat it together. 

Celebrating National Family Meals Month

Looking for some ways to bring a little spark back to your family meals? Try some of these ideas:

  1. Breakfast for dinner is always popular. Get into it and have your family get back into their pajamas and pretend they just woke up.
  2. On the other end of the spectrum, why not “dress for dinner”? Have everyone put on their fanciest clothes and set the table with your best dishes. 
  3. Create a family meal that’s all one color!
  4. Have a reverse dinner and eat dessert first.
  5. Create a menu, assign one person to be the waiter, and pretend you’re eating in a restaurant. 
  6. If you have family members you haven’t been able to see in person, why not have a meal together over Zoom?

Celebrating National Family Meals Month

We all want to get back to normal as soon as possible. But one thing is clear, whatever our new normal will be, we need to stay physically and emotionally fit. Spending time together now, eating as a family, will help us with both.