Healthy Food,  Marriage & Family


Looking for ways to experience the happiest moments in life everyday? In this post I am going to share 7 simple ways to make the most of family dinner time!

The Happiest Moments In Life

Raising a healthy family in 2022 is not for the faint of heart.  It takes intentionality, but it is possible, and we can experience the happiest moments in life every ordinary day!

When my husband, Tyler, and I got married in 2003, social media was not a thing yet (MySpace would be released later that year).  In 2006 when our first baby was born, MySpace was the most visited website in the world and Facebook had just opened it’s doors to the public.  Just days after our second baby was born in 2007, the first iPhone was released.

Life seems to be on turbo-speed ever since then!  As a society we are SO BUSY and when we do have family time, we must, must, must be intentional to make the most of it.  That is why I want to share what we practice as a family, to create the happiest moments in life, everyday!

Why Family Dinners Are So Important For Kids

The research that has been done on the importance of family dinners for kids and teens is absolutely astounding and it demands that we take notice.

A PubMed systematic review found that kids and teenagers that have frequent family dinners are less likely to:

  • have disordered eating
  • use alcohol and drugs
  • have violent behavior
  • have feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide

Wow, that’s amazing! Just by slowing down enough to have have family dinners together, most nights of the week, we are setting our kids up for a better life.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has surveyed thousands of teens and their parents for almost two decades.  They made this statement:

“Our past surveys have consistently found a
relationship between children having frequent
dinners with their parents and a decreased risk of
their using drugs, drinking or smoking, and that
parental engagement fostered around the dinner
table is one of the most potent tools to help
parents raise healthy, drug-free children”.

 Barilla Italian food company partnered with Family Circle magazine to survey the importance of quality meal time on parents and children.  Here are some of their findings:

  • 60 percent of kids wish they had more time to spend together as a family
  •  Nearly two-thirds of kids notice that their parents are less stressed and more fun to be around when they have dinner together
  • Eating dinner together at home ranked higher in importance than vacation did
  • 52 percent of parents and kids agree that it is easier to talk about their feelings over the dinner table than in other situations
  • 62 percent of kids selected family dinners at home together over sports/team lessons, music/arts/dance and scouts/clubs as the best activity to help them with feelings of safety and security

Does that give you hope, or what?! We don’t have to have to be perfect parents and we don’t have to make a lot of money. Just having dinner at home as a family makes a difference! According to the kids surveyed, the happiest moments in life don’t come from after school activities, or even from vacation, but from having dinner with their families.

Why Family Dinners Are Important For Adults Too

If everything listed above is not enough to convince you than regular, family dinners are important, I’m going to share why it’s not just the kids who benefit.   

The Mayo Clinic found that for adults, eating family meals cooked at home lowered the odds of being obese by 26 percent. Adults who do not watch TV or videos while eating, and who ate family meals that were cooked at home, had almost a 50 percent lower risk of obesity.

Pretty stinking cool!


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7 Ways To Make Family Dinner The Happiest Moments In Life


So now that we know how important it is to have dinner together as a family, I’m going to share some secrets that I’ve learned to make our every day, family dinner the happiest moments in life!

1.  Plan The Dinner Menu Together

On Sunday afternoons I write out what we will be having for dinner that week.  By asking my husband and kids for their input on building the menu, they begin to anticipate the upcoming dinners.  We write each night’s menu on a chalkboard in our dining room and the family knows what’s coming up. If I miss writing out the menu, it’s usually brought to my attention by one of my kiddos.

family eating dinner together

I love this dinner menu that I found at Hobby Lobby. I could not find it there when I looked recently, but here are a few cute ones on Amazon.

2.  Turn All Screens Off

By having the TV turned off, and all computers and phones put away in another room, conversation with one another can flow leading up to, and during dinner.  The happiest moments in life typically happen when we are present in the moment that we are in.

On average, children ages 8-12 in the United States spend 4-6 hours on screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours a day.

A 2021 survey revealed that nearly half of the adult respondents daily spent five to six hours on their phones for personal use (not work-related).

That’s a lot of screen time! Let’s make the daily dinner time a distraction-free event. 

One of the most compelling books that I have read on the impact of smart phones and social media is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.  In fact, it’s been so impactful on Tyler and me that on a recent 18 hour road trip to California, we had our kids listen to the audiobook.  

3.  Set The Atmosphere

One of our favorite things to do as we are preparing for dinner is to set the atmosphere with music and candles.  We almost always have Jack Johnson or Italian restaurant jazz playing.  If we are eating inside we will light candles on the table.  In the winter when it’s dark early outside, we’ll turn all of the lights off in the house, light all of the candles, and eat by candlelight.  Yes, sometimes dinner is chili with cornbread, but the candlelight always makes the moment feel special.  

In the summer we will often eat our dinners on the deck around our firepit.  For certain, some of the happiest moments in life have taken place around our firepit, or eating chili in the candlelight.

4.  Involve Everyone In Meal Prep And Clean Up

When just one parent is responsible for prepping dinner and cleaning up, it is a lot of work and will likely feel more like a burden than a blessing. 

As soon as your kiddos are old enough to walk, you can start teaching them to help out.  Have the family participate in setting the table, prepping the food, clearing the table, and doing dishes.  Many hands make light work, so make it the norm for your entire family to be involved in making family dinners happen.  Even clean up can make for the happiest moments in life 🙂

5.  Make Meaningful Dinner Conversations

Some mentors of ours, Jeffrey and Joanne Portmann, are phenomenal parents who have raised two, now adult sons.  We have learned A LOT from this family and one of our nightly traditions comes from them.

During dinner, we all take turns sharing what our personal high moment of the day was, and what our personal low moment of the day was.  This simple practice has opened up a lot of conversation that otherwise would not have happened.

Another tradition that we do many nights, is read a question from a conversation card that everyone takes turns asking.  We have two favorite sets of conversation cards (we like these so much that we often give these away as gifts as well)!

6. Create Weekly Traditions

One of our favorite weekly traditions we have been practicing since our kids were little. It takes place almost every Friday Night; we call it Family Party. We borrowed this one from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Doug and Tasha Myers, who have served as missionaries in Swaziland and Ethiopia and have raised three amazing kids.

I asked Tasha what their inspiration was to start “Family Party”. Here is what she had to say:

When we moved to Swaziland there was not much to do on Friday nights, our kids were little and we needed something fun to look forward to. I remembered a lady speaking at a MOPS meeting, how they did a family dinner  each Friday night and it became a place as the kids grew where her kids (and all of their friends) wanted to be.  We simply made pizza, had a “special drink” (aka pop), and made some sort of dessert, and called it “family party”. I had no clue the bond and value it would have on our little family along with the strong bond and anchor towards our family identity.

Almost every Friday night we make pizza and either watch a movie together or play games. The kids know that Friday night means Family Party and it’s always a fun night that we look forward to!

Now that we have teenagers, there are many Friday nights that someone is at a friend’s house and not participating in Family Party, but we choose to have the best time, no matter how many are in attendance.

7. Gratitude Makes For The Happiest Moments In Life

Regardless of our circumstances, we have something to be thankful for. Lately I have been contemplating the words that the Apostle Paul wrote 2,000 years ago, to the church in Philippi

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

We can be so financially restricted that our family dinners consist of rice and beans every night, eaten off of a cardboard box, and we still can rejoice! We can still be thankful! We still can experience the happiest moments in life!

I’ve been at some beautifully prepared meals that are fit for a magazine, but when stress is through the roof and gratitude for the moment is low, I’d rather be eating rice and beans.


Having dinner together as a family is one of the most impactful things that we can do for our children. The happiest moments in life don’t have to cost any money. They simply require our intentionality and quality time with the ones we love most.

I’d love to hear from you! What is one of your happiest moments in life?