Between after-school activities and late nights at work, sitting down for a family dinner is an art form forever being perfected. Enter Laurie David, producer of the film An Inconvenient Truth and the just-released Fed Up who wrote The Family Cooks. She says making family dinners a priority can change everyone's lives for the better.
David, a single mom of two, says a communal dinner is essential if you want to raise healthy eaters.
"Bring them [into the kitchen] and be patient," she suggests, "so that someday you can send them out in the world capable of cooking for themselves and happy to do so."
David, who split from actor Larry David in 2007, says she knew she was doing something right when her girls didn't run away from the table the second they were done eating. She found dinner was the perfect time to catch up. A time for her family, if even just the three of them, to get closer.
Read on for David's 9 tips for creating the perfect family dinner:
1. Cook, as often as you possibly can: "With love, confidence, and curiosity," says David. She also stresses the importance of including your children in the cooking process. "If they help choose a few ingredients, peel the carrots, and taste-test the soup, they are far more likely to be excited about the meal."
2. Make it a ritual: "The more meals you eat together as a family -- whoever makes up that family -- the more benefits you will accrue," she said. "Eating together, talking, and sharing are some of the most important activities a family can do together."
3. Ban the words "picky eater": The phrase "picky eater" "gives your kids a handy excuse to refuse new flavors and textures," says David. Instead, make it common practice for everyone present at the table to taste everything, every single time it's served.
4. Get local: "Take your kids to farmers markets or a pick-your-own farm so they can see how their fruits and vegetables grow and taste them straight from the land," suggests David. This makes dinner as educational as it is delicious.
5. Keep your shopping cart full of fruit, vegetables, and grains. "Keep out the boxes, frozen trays, and crinkly bags. The only way that junk can get into your home and your family’s tummies is if you buy it."
6. Unplug, ASAP: David is 100 percent anti-device at the dinner table. "Use some of that social media time to be social with your kids," she says.
7. Come to the dinner table hungry. Skip out on the unhealthy sugary/filling snacks in your home. Instead, keep plenty of fresh fruit and cut-up vegetables handy.
8. Hydrate: Drink real water from a real glass, between meals and at meals.
9. Have FUN: Laurie swears by the philosophy that cooking should be a fun activity in the home. "It should be a creative, playful, and generous interaction with your family. Turn up the music, light candles, and kick off your shoes," says David. "Kids are naturally drawn to the kitchen -- it’s where you are and it’s a room full of magical potions, machines that whip, and sweet things to be tasted."
Do you have any tips and tricks of your own to making family dinners happen?
Image via Ray Frances Ong/Flickr