We all have our epic moments that mark our kids’ independence and our own success as parents. I realized one of these moments recently in a conversation with my eldest son, Max and his college housemate Sam.
Max and Sam share a house with two other students – all four are juniors at California Polytechnic Institute, San Luis Obispo. Together they decided to each prepare one meal per night every week. The idea alone was enough for me, but only when I probed a little deeper did I gain a richer appreciation for the value of “family meals.”
Q: So Max, tell me about the inspiration behind your “Family Meal Plan?”
Max: We had a meeting together to discuss the idea – three of us really wanted it and the fourth went along. We wanted our house to be our home. We’d all been eating as a family our whole life and we thought it (the Family Meal Plan) would bring us closer together. It’s nice to come home and dinner is made –like at home.
Q: What is involved for each meal?
Max: On average it’s about three hours to buy and prepare a meal. But since it’s only one meal per week there’s motivation to put out effort and creativity to make your best meal – you don’t want to let your friends down.
On your night to cook you have to get the groceries for the meal. It’s also a thing in our house to always bring back milk. A gallon of milk typically lasts a day in our house.
Q: What have been the nutritional benefits of this plan?
Sam: By designating the time in your day to make, prepare and share your meals – what this did ultimately was create healthier meals. It’s a way of getting more involved – I call my mom for recipes.
During our exams, we were all busy so our dinners were less frequent – not taking the time to slow down– I noticed I was drinking less milk. During our meals we always bring out the gallon of milk as part of our meal.
Max: We get to eat healthy more frequently – these meals would ordinarily be expensive in restaurants. We prepare full balanced meals every single time – salad, steak, asparagus, and mashed potatoes.
Q: What about the social benefits of breaking bread together?
Max: We feel more like a family. It brings everybody together. We share the preparation of the meal and we all learn from it.
Others want to know about it. In general we take pride in what we’re doing. It’s always been and will always be an important part of what a family is about.
Family meals matter at every age.
As a mom, it’s easy to wonder if the values you set for your children make a lasting impact. Sharing family meals has been a ritual I’ve instilled faithfully. Twenty-one years later, it’s gratifying to know that the tradition has now been passed along to my son.
Valerie Fung-A-Ling, a Territory Manager with Dairy Council of California is the proud mom of two very active young men who are now in college. She received her bachelor’s of science degree in Food and Nutrition at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Valerie is dedicated to promoting healthy eating behavior through awareness and nutrition education. She believes that effort and commitment to family meal time is a treasured gift that when given to children will be passed on through future generations.