Ask the Pediatrician

Making Family Meals Work for Busy Parents

We all have our own type of modern family—single-parent households, kids with hectic schedules, and more. Trying to balance school, jobs, activities, and homework often means family nutrition suffers. Busy or not, the truth is that family meals eaten together are healthy. Studies show families that eat dinner together have better communication, less obesity, and fewer picky eaters.

Here are five ways to make family meals easier:

Try different times—it doesn’t have to be dinner
Crazy work schedules and late kid activities can make weeknight dinners hard. Try Saturday breakfasts or after-school snacks or grill outside on Sundays.

Use grocery store timesavers
Pre-prepped products like rotisserie chicken, steam-in-bag veggies, and bagged salad are fantastic timesavers. They are nutritious and can help get a quick meal on the table.

Eat meals media-free
The dining table should be a media-free zone.

Try a self-serve bar
Try a taco, salad, pizza, burger, or breakfast bar. It’s a great way to expose children to a variety of healthy items.

Love your leftovers
Cook two or three times a week, and try a smorgasbord night of all the leftovers. Your kids will love the choices, and you’ll love that you don’t have to cook every night!

Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP, is the founder of Calabasas Pediatrics. She’s also a best-selling parenting book author and assistant clinical professor at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.