The Balancing Act

I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat Better, Eat Together Balancing Act blog carnival hosted by MealsMatter and Dairy Council of California to share ways families everywhere can make time for family meals that include foods from all the food groups. A list of other registered dietitians and moms who are participating in the Balancing Act blog carnival will be listed at the bottom of this post or can be found at MealsMatter.

How many times a week does your family sit down to a meal together? For many families this is a difficult task, with everyone running in different directions. Eating family meals together is important for a number of reasons, including improved nutrition as well as better performance in school. Family meals help open the lines of communication and develops deeper relationships between parents, their children and even among siblings.

But in reality, how do you make it happen and to provide a nutritious meal to boot? Here are some of my top tips for getting a balanced, healthy meal on the table fast:

  • A family meal does not have to be dinner. It can be breakfast or a weekend lunch. It is whatever your family’s schedule allows. Aim for at least 3 times per week if possible.
  • Plan ahead. Menu planning is my life saver. Being a working mom is difficult and I could not do it if I didn’t plan ahead. Need ideas? I post my menu plan for the week every Monday as do many other bloggers, which are all linked over at I’m an Organizing Junkie.
  • Keep meals simple. You do not need complicated recipes or five-star cuisine for family meals. Just provide the basics: a protein source, vegetable, whole grain, fruit and a dairy source (think milk, yogurt or cheese). You might even have one main dish that combines most of these elements and then serve the others on the side. Use MyPlate as a guide. Fruit is a great dessert with its natural sweetness. If fruit does not show up on our main plate, we usually slice fresh fruit and share after dinner. Frozen vegetables are a quick and easy way to get a variety on the table in a hurry.
  • Invest in appliances that help you be more efficient such as a slow cooker, pressure cooker or even a rice cooker. I use my slow cooker weekly. I love the feeling of loading it up in the morning and knowing that dinner is done. If you need ideas for slow cooker recipes, check out A Year of Slow Cooking or Crock Pot Girls.
  • Find some quick, easy go-to recipes. I posted some of my favorites here on my Real Food, Fast post.
  • Enlist other family members in helping plan and prepare a meal every week. Meal planning and preparation shouldn’t only fall on one person. Involving children in the process can also make them more willing to try new foods.

I feel fortunate that my family sits down to dinner together almost every night. It is rare that we do not. Of course I imagine that will change in a few years when my son starts school, after school activities and sports. But it is also the way that I was raised – we had family dinners most nights when I was growing up. My dad also always cooked Sunday breakfast for the family – he would have fun finding a new or unique recipe and experimenting on us. Most of the time, they were good too! I like carrying on that tradition and hopefully passing it on to my own children.

Family meals are a priority for me, as is menu planning. It isn’t to say that there are weeks that I am not in the mood, feel burned out on coming up with ideas or don’t feel like taking the time. But then I remind myself of how much less stressed I am to have a plan in place. Of course posting it on my blog every week provides a big incentive as well as holds me accountable.

How about you, how do you hold yourself accountable? How do you balance family meals?

Don’t stop here! Other bloggers share their stories and tips on how they juggle the balancing act of getting a well-balanced meal on the table!
10 Commandments for Guilt-Free Feeding – Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD
Beating the Lunch Box Blues – Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Dinner Time – Michelle Rowe, RN and Health Educator
Eat Better, Eat Together– Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Family Dinners Fuel Healthier Kids – Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN
Families that Cook Together Eat Together – Kia Robertson
Making Time for Family Meals: How I’ve Earned My “RDH” – Trina Robertson, MS, RD
Meal Planning: Taking the Stress Out of the ‘What’s for Dinner’– Laura Everage
Pressed for Time? Moms Know Best: Tips for Getting Food on the Table – FAST! – Samantha Lewandowski, MS, RD, LDN
Roasted Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal – Cheri Liefeld
Sunday Night Family Dinner, In the Dining Room – Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN 
The Balancing Act – Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
The Power of Family Meal Time & How to Squeeze It In! – Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
The Truth About Family Dinner – Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Toughen up: Give Two Choices for Dinner – Take it or Leave it! – Glenda Gourley