Gather Around: What a Family Meal Looks Like Today

Sometimes eating a fast-food burger in the car on the way home is unavoidable. I get it. We are all busy. But making time for a family meal is important. Eating together stimulates communication, creates memories and establishes good eating habits. September is National Family Meals Month. To celebrate, IFIC Foundation staff shared what a family meal looked like growing up and what a family meal means to them now. 

Allison Dostal
Sylvia Rowe Fellow   

For me, family meal time was all about grilling outdoors in the Minnesota summertime. “Family meals” doesn’t just mean those enjoyed with blood relatives. Some of my favorite meals have been large, pot-luck style dinners with groups of friends who were essentially my family, having lived in a city far from where I grew up and where my parents still resided.

Whether you’re sitting down with your parents, grandparents, and siblings or sharing a meal with a group of friends, fostering a warm, comforting environment centered on food and entertaining can be one of the best relationship-building experiences. I can’t think of any experience as intimate, yet welcoming, as spending time enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures with the people we care about the most.

Sarah Romotsky, R.D,
Director of Health and Wellness

My favorite family meal growing up was turkey chili. In Los Angeles, the temperatures never necessitate a warm bowl of chili. But for me, chili signified fall and winter even if the weather outside did not.

A “family meal” isn’t defined by what we are eating but the fact that we eat it together. Growing up, my parents were always working late. We often didn’t eat “home cooked dinners” during the week. A typical “family meal” was often take-out or delivery food which was perfectly fine as long as we took 30 minutes to eat together and share stories from our day.

Eating together as a family makes the act of eating not solely about putting nutrients in your body. Enjoying food with family brings a personal connection to the act of eating. Food should be enjoyed and appreciated. Who better to do that with than with your family?

Megan Meyer, Ph.D,
Program Manager, Health and Wellness

My favorite meal growing up (and still makes the top of my list now!) was beef steak. Basically, it is my grandfather’s take on a popular Filipino dish. He marinades beef in soy sauce, calamansi (a popular Filipino citrus that is like a mixture of lemon and orange) juice, some sugar, and tons of garlic. He then sautés the beef up in some oil, boils the marinade to make a delicious sauce, throws in some sliced onion, and serves everything over piping hot rice. Delicious!

Growing up, family dinner was an important part of my day. All five of us would sit down together and recap some of the day’s events while eating a balanced and filling meal. We’d usually end with fresh fruit. I grew up in Florida, after all!

Today, family meals look similarly for me and my husband. We like to take the time to prepare a healthful meal at the end of the day. It is a way for us to unwind from the day’s craziness and catch each other up on things. I usually go for a piece of fruit or some chocolate after dinner. It’s impossible for me to not have something sweet after dinner!

Matt Tarka
Senior Manager, International Relations and Membership

My favorite family meal growing up was seasoned pork roast with green beans and mashed potatoes. This meal usually included a salad (lettuce, chopped celery, tomatoes, carrots, chick peas and black olives).  While I might be a bit old-fashioned, my wife and I make the time to cook multiple times during the week (and eat at our dinner table). It’s important for families to eat together, particularly in this modern world of rushing from one activity to the next, or conversely, leading a more sedentary lifestyle. 

Liz Caselli-Mechael
Director, Issues Management

My favorite family meal was lemon chicken with rice and corn. My mom LOVED how attached I got to it because it was apparently super easy to make, but the rest of the family also got tired of having it so often.

Today a family meal is my husband and me at our (recently self-refurbished!) dinner table. We love pasta dishes and red wine. Eating together for dinner is a needed escape and time to process and talk through everything that’s going on. We work long days, and it’s easy to just come home and zone out. Eating gets us in the rhythm of actually enjoying each other, even if we’re wiped out.

For resources on how to incorporate healthful habits like family meals into your life, check out: