This week’s meal plan and my No. 1 parenting tip

this week's meal plan

Hello Everybody,

Welcome to 2018!  I hope January is being kind to you all.

My No 1 parenting tip

This week I really want to share with you this powerful quote from Dr Anne K. Fishel from the The Family Dinner Project.

“Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviours that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self esteem.

Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience.

The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.

What else can families do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?”


I thought this was a really insightful piece of evidence about the importance of eating together as a family.  It’s a routine that I have maintained with our children and so far (touch wood) we have negotiated the teenage years pretty smoothly.

There are further studies that highlight the benefits of eating together, such as: –

  1. It gives families  an opportunity to connect together and tell stories about their day.  Family members can benefit from feedback from the rest of their family.  This provides children with support in analysing their emotions around events that have affected them in their day.
  2. Gathering together as a family in the evening provides a routine that allows us to relax after a busy day.
  3. Studies show that eating at the table without the distraction of TV’s, phones etc. enables more mindful eating.  When you focus on the food you are eating you chew your food properly, which aids digestion, and you are less likely to overeat. This means less indigestion and bloating.
  4. Communities living in the Blue Zones of the world (areas with long life expectancy and low disease rates)  provide evidence that social interaction,  whilst enjoying a meal, provides huge benefits to your overall health.
  5. A survey of 9-14 year olds who ate dinner with their families usually consumed more fruit and vegetables and less fizzy drinks and fried foods.   Eating with adults enables children to learn what to eat through example – so make sure you eat your vegies too!

Whilst all these studies provide powerful reasons as to why families should eat together, for many families this is a hard habit to implement.  Modern living with long commuter hours for work and excessive after school clubs mean that for most families meals are being consumed “on the run” or at different times in the home.

How can we fit in family meal times?

Here are a couple of tips you could try:-

  • The survey evidence does indicate that what you are eating is less important than the physicality of eating together without distractions.  So, even if you are having a takeaway, it’s still better that you are eating as a family together at the dinner table.
  • Whilst it might not be possible to commit to a family dinnertime every night, just 3 or 4 times a week is still beneficial.  Usually weekends are always easier, so emphasise that everyone needs to schedule their activities to allow for family mealtimes then.  Hopefully, you should be able to find a couple of other nights during the week as well.
  • When my kids were very small they obviously needed to eat dinner at 5pm.  My husband often wouldn’t be home from work at that time.  We would have our “adults dinner” much later.  However, I did always try to sit with the children at the table whilst they ate and listened to their chatter.  It was really hard, as I was always tempted to get another chore done whilst they were sat still for 5 minutes!  But, that training did pay off – it meant that even when they were very little, we could go out for a meal in a restaurant/café and they would sit happily (OK – sometimes they did have some colouring to keep them occupied whilst we waited for the food!).
  • As the children get older and more busy with club’s etc you could make a family picnic to take along to have before or after their club.
  • Although the surveys refer to family dinnertime, I think getting together for any meal is just as beneficial so perhaps you can get all your family together for breakfast instead.

But, being realistic, we all have times when we just want to collapse with dinner on our lap in front of the TV.  It’s interesting that on those occasions when we give our kids the choice, they usually still opt for sitting at the table.  Children are creatures of habit, so once you set up the right habits they will stick with them.

To give you some inspiration for your meals at the table this week here’s

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Pasta and pork meatballs in tomato sauce
  • Salmon and prawn parcels, sweet potatoes and green veg
  • Fish pie
  • Pineapple, sweet potato and chicken bake and salad
  • Cheat night! Sausages, eggs and homemade chips
  • Roast Pork lion and all the trimmings
  • Left over roast pork, pea and cheese pasta bake


Have a super week everybody.  Don’t forget you can still join the New Leaf Facebook Group “52 weeks Healthy Motivation Camp” HERE.  You get weekly challenges, recipes and tips to support you in keeping motivated with your healthy goals for 2018.

You can also sign up for our regular free newsletter HERE.


Signature from Janine x



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