In today’s fast-paced world, where schedules are often jam-packed and screens are constantly vying for our attention, finding the time to sit down and enjoy a meal together as a family can feel like a rare luxury. However, studies prove that family meals improve nutrition and emotional well-being. That’s why the American Heart Association celebrates September being National Family Meals Month by encouraging families in New York City to make eating meals together a regular occurrence.
Family meals provide an opportunity for family members to connect, share stories, and engage in meaningful conversations. This fosters stronger relationships and helps family members feel more connected and supported. Additionally, when you prepare and eat meals at home, you have more control over the ingredients and portion sizes. This can lead to healthier choices and better overall nutrition, reducing the risk of heart-related issues.
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Eating together also encourages mindful eating, where you savor each bite, pay attention to hunger cues, and enjoy the sensory experience of food. This can help prevent overeating and promote better digestion. Family meals also provide a platform for parents to model healthy eating habits for their children. When kids see their parents making nutritious choices, they are more likely to adopt those habits themselves, setting the stage for a lifetime of heart-healthy eating.
Now that we understand the significance of family meals, let’s explore some American Heart Association resources that may help your family eat more meals together!
One of the pillars of the American Heart Association Healthy for Good movement is #EatSmart. Along with the Association’s dietary guidance, Eat Smart encourages people to focus on broad eating habits instead of single foods, and to balance calories consumed with physical activity.
Family meals often involve a variety of food groups, ensuring that you receive a balanced intake of essential nutrients. This can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Eating together promotes portion control, as you’re more likely to serve appropriate-sized portions compared to dining out or eating on the go. This can help manage weight and prevent overeating, a risk factor for heart problems.
One of the best family-friendly resources is this colorful infographic outlining 10 ways to improve your heart health.
Lower Stress Levels
Sharing meals with loved ones can reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on heart health, so finding time to unwind and connect with family is crucial. Managing stress is good for your health and well-being. Negative psychological health / mental health is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. But positive psychological health is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death.
Here are a few more ways you and your family can manage stress:
- Exercising regularly. It can relieve stress, tension, anxiety and depression. Consider a nature walk, meditation or yoga.
- Making time for friends and family. It’s important to maintain social connections and talk with people you trust.
- Getting enough sleep. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours a night.
- Maintaining a positive attitude.
- Practicing relaxation techniques while listening to music.
- Finding a stimulating hobby that can be fun and distract you from negative thoughts or worries.
Experiment with Healthy Recipes:
One of the best ways to maximize family meals is to explore heart-healthy recipes as a family and make cooking a fun, educational experience for everyone. When you explore recipes together you can involve everyone. By experimenting with new recipes you also encourage family members to participate in meal planning and preparation. This promotes a sense of ownership and togetherness.
One of the best tips we can share it to be patient and flexible. Remember that family meal time should be enjoyable, not stressful. Be patient with picky eaters and allow for flexibility in food choices.
Finally, National Family Meals Month serves as a reminder of the numerous benefits of sharing meals together as a family, with a particular emphasis on heart health. By prioritizing regular family meals, you can nourish not only your body but also your relationships, creating a foundation for a heart-healthy lifestyle that can last a lifetime. So, gather your loved ones, prepare a delicious, nutritious meal, and celebrate the joy of family meals this September and beyond!