6 Tips for a Better Family Mealtime

The car door shuts behind you. As you make it up the driveway, macaroni salad in hand, the front door opens. Grandma stands there, calling out one or maybe even more than one (right on Grandma!) of these "words of endearment”: 

“Hele ʻai!” 

“Itadakemasu!” 

“Kain na!” 

“Sau e ai!" 

“Lai, lai chi fan ba!” 

In other words, “Come, we go eat!” 

Your stomach is empty and is ready for what’s coming, yet your heart is what will leave full.  

Sharing meals together has been a signature or our local Hawaii culture for years. Whether you grew up on the islands with your immediate, extended, and/or hānai families or are recent transplants embracing the delicious tradition of huge potlucks, you know that eating together is always better.  

Sharing more family meals has health benefits too. According to Pediatrics Magazine, benefits of families sharing three or more meals per week include a 12 percent reduction in the odds for being overweight, a 20 percent increase in eating healthy foods, a 35 percent decrease in the odds for disordered eating and a 24 percent increase in eating healthy foods. 

In addition, research compiled by American Academy of Pediatricians and others reveals that the simple act of eating at least three meals together per week strengthens families, improves students’ school performance, reduces depression and reduces risky behavior in teenagers, such as smoking, drinking and drug use. It also builds resilience in children, and helps them manage stress better. See, Grandma did know best.  

Keiki to Career Kauaʻi is excited to launch the “Share Family Meals" campaign with its community partners to reach as many families on island as possible.  

"Eating more meals together is way for all of us to get back to our roots – to reconnect with ʻohana over a simple, healthy meal.” said Mason Chock, president of Kupu Aʻe and member of the Keiki to Career Leadership Council. "These are the traditions that bind our families and our community together. This campaign speaks to our island culture of ʻohana". 

How can you create more quality mealtimes with your family? Try these six simple steps:

1. Turn off the TV and cell phones. 

2. Keep meals simple but nutritious. 

3. Listen to your children to show how much you care. 

4. Don’t use meals as a time to criticize or discipline your children. 

5. Ask your school-aged children to help set and clear the table. If they are old enough, have them help you in the kitchen, too. 

6. Create a “talk-story jar” filled with “conversation starters” to keep the conversation interesting for everyone.   

For more information on the benefits of sharing family meals, visit www.keikitocareer.org/

Marion is President of Kaua`i Planning & Action Alliance and coordinates Keiki to Career Kaua`i, a community partnership dedicated to creating brighter futures for Kaua`i’s young people. Keiki to Career’s vision is for all of our island’s youth to be “healthy, competent, confident and caring”.