Expert Tip: Family dinners


Social support is essential to success. Family plays an important role in our social support networks. Are your family dinners helping or hindering your goals?

In my early teens, a family dinner night might have consisted of Supreme pizzas from Pizza Hut, endless tacos from Taco Bell or just massive amounts of buttered popcorn. Needless to say, I once was a leading candidate for president of the Nutrition Degenerate Club.

But like many things in life, food habits can evolve.

With longer days and fresh produce rolling in during the summer months, I like to hook up with family and friends more often for meals – especially dinners. We generally use the potluck strategy since it takes the food burden off just one person.

A couple of times this summer I’ve had to take a step back and recognize the amazing social support I have. We know that social support is vital for successful long-term nutrition.

Furthermore, common complaints from our clients usually consist of the following:

“My spouse always buys ice cream!”

“All my kids want is junk food!”

“My parents take me to Golden Corral every week!”

Translation: I have a crappy nutrition support system.

And when that’s the case, it seems like success with our health is always elusive.

But fortunately for me, I’d have a hard time failing with my social support system. It’s fail-proof. Check out a couple of recent dinners.


Meal included:

Raw kale salad with carrots, cabbage and olive oil/vinegar dressing
Quinoa with tomatoes
Navy bean, kale and sweet potato soup
Sweet potato biscuits
Bread with olive tapenade


Meal included:

Navy bean, kale and onion stir-fry
Seitan & bell pepper skewers
Refried beans
Raw kale salad with dried cranberries and pepitas
Bread with hummus

Oh, and this is my nephew enjoying some of the kale (with me in the background getting overly excited).


Considering I didn’t learn about kale until my twenties, I think he has a solid foundation.

Research also shows that families that gather around the table for regular meals are healthier and often leaner.

  • They’re more likely to eat “real food”, especially fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Their nutrient intakes are better: more protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Teenagers from families who eat together regularly are less likely to engage in destructive behavior like drug use and eating disorders.
  • And eating together as a family may reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. (The continental European love of relaxed, communal meals is one proposed reason for the so-called “French paradox” of lower rates of cardiovascular disease despite higher consumptions of fat and wine.)

Again, it all comes down to social support for healthy behaviors.

Try exploring healthier options with your whole family. Get together as often as possible around the table. Everyone from kids to great-grandparents will benefit.

What is your social support like in the world of nutrition? Are you still eating Supreme pizzas from Pizza Hut and lots of buttered popcorn? Or do your potluck dinners regularly have two varieties of kale?

With family like this, how could I fail?

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