Family Dinner Inspiration

I have many friends who love to cook. I envy them.

I, on the other hand, face mealtime for my family with a multitude of emotions—boredom and dread being on the list. I am constantly looking for ways to improve both my attitude and our family dining experience.

I have read the statistics. Eating regular meals with your family is a good thing. Kids that eat with their families are less likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or try marijuana. Regular family meals can reduce childhood obesity and improve language skills and academic performance.

When I heard Laurie David, producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, speak about her new book The Family Dinner at the Children’s Environmental Health Center’s spring luncheon, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.The book is chock full with recipes from quick-fix ideas to vegetarian choices and delicious desserts. There is a full chapter on table talk with ideas for conversation starters and games to play at the table. And green tips interspersed throughout (i.e. “Look for 100% recycled aluminum foil. It has no added chlorine or toxins and performs as well as traditional foil.”)

My takeaway, after poring through the book this week, is that dinner doesn’t have to be a big three-course meal. It can be as simple as peanut butter sandwiches, or soup and salad, but it does mean that you have to sit down and be together.  Love that. I am good at talking, not so good at cooking. Food is important, but so is planning and thinking about the conversation.

We jumped in headfirst and did Taco Night. My kids set the table and helped chop the tomatoes. We wrote out some conversation starters like “If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?” and “Name three things you would have on a deserted island.” We also downloaded HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads for more conversation ideas. Last week’s was about Veterans Day. “Do you think we do enough to help America’s soldiers when they come back from war?” Heavy stuff…

My husband and I were a bit dubious whether our 10-, 8- and 5-year-olds would actually engage. But we were both completely surprised how lively our conversation was. The kids got into thinking up their own questions and seemed truly interested in hearing what each other had to say. My oldest son couldn’t stop laughing when my 5-year-old daughter announced that she wanted to be a strawberry when she grew up. We are definitely going to do this again.

What are you cooking tonight? And what is the plan for conversation?

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