Today, households are made up of several types of families— combined families, living independently, sharing a home with roommates or living child-free.
As the television show Modern Family so richly depicts, the make-up of the family unit is as richly diverse as we are.
The traditional family dinner has also evolved significantly over the past 20 years.
Nightly sit-down meals are difficult to maneuver between work, school, youth sports and a plethora of other activities that keep us away from home.
Yet research shows that households who dine together at home eat more ‘real food’ and less pre-cooked or processed foods.
They also consume significantly more fruits and vegetables.
The evolution of the dinner menu
The family dinner menu has also changed significantly over the past 20 years.
Not so long ago, Americans sat down every night to a large portion of red meat with an overflowing side of potatoes or another starchy food.
There was possibly a little pile of canned peas and a plate nearby with a stack of white bread and a stick of butter.
But in many households today, the oversized beef entrée is a rarity, more often than not. It has been replaced with healthier options–fish, chicken, pork or vegetarian–which comprise about 25 percent of the dinner plate.
The starch portion is now fiber and grain-focused, covering another 25 percent of the plate.
A plethora of fresh fruit and vegetable options fill the remaining 50 percent of the plate.
The new cook in the kitchen
Due to scheduling and work demands, men or older children are often in charge of meal prep today. Since no one is home during the day to plan or prepare dinner, meals may be outsourced to local restaurants or supermarkets that offer prepared foods.
Some households forego big dinners in lieu of larger midday meals or eating five light meals throughout the day.
But fear not, restaurants—even the fast food variety—have caught on that people are demanding healthier food options today.
And it’s not hard to find restaurants that have closed down over the past few years; if you don’t offer several healthy options—grilled protein, salads, fruits and soups—customers will simply go elsewhere.
From tasty and satisfying salad offerings at the local drive-through to a plethora of fish and sushi restaurants in every central NJ town, you can find a healthy restaurant meal for everyone in your family to enjoy.
Improvising the home-cooked meal
In my own home, I may not have time to make my pasta faggioli recipe, but I can pick up quarts of fresh soup at my local grocery store to share with my children when my wife is working late.
And at least once a week, our family crockpot is simmering something home-cooked, healthy and delicious when my family arrives home starving after a long day.
Making an effort and committing to sit down, put away the cell phones and enjoy dinner, brunch or even a quick lunch can benefit everyone at the table—from supporting a healthy and nutritious lifestyle to providing each other with a kind word of encouragement or praise as we navigate our way through the ups and downs of life.
Since biblical times, life’s most important moments often happen at the dinner table.
Make the experience valuable, nurturing and memorable with the people who mean the most to you.
Ayotunde Adeyeri, MD, FASMBS, is a board-certified advanced laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon on staff at several central New Jersey hospitals.
He is the medical director of Sterling Surgicare in Holmdel; medical director of the Institute for Weight Loss, Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge, and co-medical director of Central Jersey Bariatrics in Freehold. To meet with Dr. Adeyeri to discuss your obesity or general surgical need, call 732-217-3897.