As a continuation from yesterday’s Healthy Family Travel Tips #12 – Resist Fast Food (And 7 Resources When You Can’t), today’s tip explores some of the means and benefits to planning a sit down dinner while on the road.
First, for the sake of definition, a sit down dinner is either a home prepared meal or something you order while at your table and not from a counter. In other words, no fast food.
Second, I’m going to put another qualifier on the dinner; it must be a dinner where everyone can hear each other and there isn’t choas all around. Sitting in a food court comes to mind. Some may argue that’s not much different than a restaurant where everyone is talking and if you feel that way, leave a comment in the food court’s defense.
A family dinner every night would be ideal, but while traveling this isn’t always always possible. Sometimes the family isn’t all together, scattered about on various activities. Or the budget doesn’t allow for eating out every night, an activity in itself that can break the bank. But it doesn’t have to be a fancy affair with hours of preparation. Grabbing some groceries from a local supermarket and heading to a picnic table is probably one of the cheapest ways to enjoy each other’s company. On roadtips this is pretty easy and a great way to actually sit FACING each other rather than all eyes forward for hours on end.
A family that eats together and makes conversation, even goofy banter over and over again, builds in a sense of connectedness. It’s a stabilizing factor in what is probably a hectic schedule out of the norm, while on the road. It’s also a chance to really stop and reflect on the day, with everyone sharing what they experienced. It builds closeness even for begrudged teenagers who’d much rather be doing ANYTHING than sitting with parents eating food. It can be turned around though by letting the teenagers or any family members take turns picking where to have a sit down dinner each night.
Lastly, it puts an eye on nutrition. It’s very easy to let things slide as the day goes by. If you’re a calorie or veggie counter, chances are you’ve lost track of your intake through the day. Planning a sit down dinner can help ensure there is a chance to balance out the peaks and valleys in food eaten during the day. But, it also enables some people to skimp out during the day. Maybe if they know they will be having a salad for dinner, an extra candy bar won’t hurt around lunch time.
While not all the benefits of a family dinner can be quantified, I know from personal experience that I enjoyed and looked forward to that time of day when I was a kid. And especially when we were on the road. Probably because I sometimes got a milkshake. 🙂