Serve up a Lifetime of Success With Meal-Planning Tips From Dairy Council of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 29, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — Helping your child succeed in school may be as easy as sitting down for a family meal. Studies suggest that family meals play a key role in raising high-achieving, healthy and well-adjusted children. The back-to-school season is an opportunity to start using free tools and resources from Dairy Council of California for a lifetime of success with family meals.

“From better grades to improved health, nutrition and social skills, family meals help children succeed in school and life,” said Tammy Anderson-Wise, Director of Program Services at Dairy Council of California. “Back-to-school is a great time to include family meals in your schedule. When families eat together and talk with children from a young age, they set a pattern for healthy habits with benefits that last a lifetime.”

Frequent family meals are linked with being successful in school. A University of Illinois study found that children ages 7 – 11 who did well in school and on achievement tests generally spent large amounts of time eating meals with their families. Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) also found that teens who ate with their families most often were more likely to get As and Bs in their classes.

A large body of research also supports the link between family meals and nutrition. A Harvard University study published in the Archives of Family Medicine found that families who ate together almost every day generally consumed more important nutrients like calcium, fiber, iron, vitamins B6 and B12, C and E, and less overall fat than families who rarely ate together. During adolescence, family meals also contribute to higher daily intakes of fruit, vegetables, calcium and other important nutrients, and lower intakes of soft drinks.

The benefits of family meals extend beyond nutrition and academic achievement. Mealtime conversation promotes positive self-esteem in children and brings the family together. Recent research shows that children whose parents shared ideas and talked to them often were about 40 percent less likely to bully other children. Family meals also provide an opportunity for parents to engage children in the planning, preparation and enjoyment of food, which creates a lasting and positive relationship with food.

“Family meals don’t have to be elaborate or time consuming to help your child succeed,” adds Anderson-Wise. To capitalize on the link between family meals and successful children during back-to-school time, parents can visit, a free family nutrition and meal-planning website sponsored by Dairy Council of California. There, families can explore time-saving tools like a meal planner, shopping-list generator and a new, online Back-to-School 30-Minute Family Meals cookbook.

“To fit family meals into our busy lives, my family does a lot of planning and preparation on the weekend. Using the free meal-planning tools on, my children and I browse recipes, plan our meals for the week, print shopping lists and make double batches of food we can freeze and reheat quickly on weeknights,” said Anderson-Wise. “Since kids are more likely to eat and drink what’s available, I’ve always served milk with dinner. Family meals are a prime opportunity to make sure we’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D in our diets.”

To help your child succeed in school and life with healthy family meals, Anderson-Wise offers the following tips:

  • Make time for family meals by setting aside as many times a week to eat together as possible.
  • Browse the Back-to-School 30-Minute Family Meals cookbook on for simple-to-prepare recipes.
  • Include foods from all the food groups—milk, fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats—in your family meals, and try new foods together.
  • During family meal time, adults and children should try to avoid mobile phones and music devices and turn off the television.
  • Use conversation starters and active listening skills to get children talking. Ask about what they are learning in school or about friends they’ve made.
  • For more ideas on healthy family meals, visit

Meals Matter is a free family nutrition and meal-planning website staffed by registered dietitians and sponsored by Dairy Council of California. Healthy Eating Made Easier®.

Note to editors: For a release with all references cited, visit