National Eat Better, Eat Together Month during October encourages families to gather for mealtimes.

“Eating meals together as a family can help you make more balanced food choices,” said University of Illinois Extension Educator Nayaab Sattar with SNAP-Education. “It’s also a great way to spend more time together and connect. These days, we seem to be too busy to sit down and eat together. We are either eating on the go, at different times, or we get distracted while eating by a number of things.”

Here are a few tips to help you and your family enjoy mealtimes together:

  1. Plan your meals. Planning a weekly menu and posting it for everyone to see, like on the fridge, can help avoid mealtime stress. If you can’t plan meals for the entire week, just pick out a few specific meals you want to have as a family and plan those. For example, you could pick Tuesday and Thursday for dinner, and Friday breakfast.
  2. Prep ahead. Have ingredients for your planned meals ready. Make a list of what you need on the day you shop. Cut vegetables and measure out dry ingredients in advance for easier meals. You could also prepare a full casserole or freezer meal ahead of time so your “Eat Better, Eat Together” meal is stress free.
  3. Make mealtime a priority. Make time for family meals when planning your household’s schedule each week. Try to cook, eat and clean up together. The great thing about getting young ones involved in preparing meals, like having them wash fruits and vegetables, is that they will be more likely to eat them.
  4. Think beyond dinner. If evenings are too hectic at your house, consider other meals for family time, such as a weekend brunch or even after-school snack time. Even though a snack is not a full meal, it still gets you to take a break to focus on each other, and share some healthy food. This is a great one to get kids involved in too.
  5. Keep meals fun and focused. Keep the family table a media-free and stress-free zone. Use this valuable time to unplug from technology and interact with each other. It can be difficult and you’ll probably forget the first few times and check your phone, but once you start to create the habit, it will be worth it.

“This October, set a goal to ‘Eat Better, Eat Together,’” said Sattar. “I hope this gave you some ideas on how to do so. You also can check out great snack and meal recipes on the Eat. Move. Save. Website.”

For more information, visit go.illinois.edu/eatmovesave or simply search “eat move save” online. The healthy choice, isn’t always the easy choice, especially on a limited budget. The Illinois Nutrition Education Programs provide practical tips to help low-income families prepare safe and healthy meals, while staying active each day.