Quick meals, snacks don’t mean unhealthy options.

Between the chaos of extracurricular activities and distractions of technology and the convenience of fast food, the traditional family meal around the dinner table is on the endangered activities list.

Not only does the family dinner have social benefits but physical as well. Studies show that kids who take part in regular family meals are less likely to smoke, use drugs or drink alcohol. They also make better eating choices when away from home.

Establishing healthy eating habits at home is the key step to creating a nutritional foundation for your kids. A study published by The National Institutes of Health shows that children who did not receive adequate vitamins and mineral scored lowered on standardized tests and had below average non-verbal IQ scores.

Although there technically is no such thing as “bad” food, drive-thru chain restaurants’ foods are high in sodium, saturated fat and trans fat, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and developmental delays in children 5-12.

But as school gets back into full swing, you may find that you have even less time to gather the family each night around the dinner table, making the typical fast food options even more appealing. But speedy food doesn’t have to equal unhealthy food.

There are a variety of casual restaurants that provide quick, inexpensive and healthy dining experiences for the whole family.

Panera Bread, where the calories are right on the menu, makes it easy for you and the kids to choose a healthy, delicious meal. For the budget conscious, Panera offers a free “My Panera” card, which provides complimentary items, tastings and demonstrations. Plus its kids meals, created with organic and whole grain ingredients, have earned national kudos.

Another alternative to consider is a pre-cooked or packaged meals to-go service. Events by Amore and Fitlife Foods are two options here in the Tampa Bay.

Events by Amore has a wonderful no preservatives or additives menu that is also all natural and gluten free. Their maxim is “Eating healthy does not mean you have to sacrifice taste” because that is one of the biggest obstacles to getting more people to eat healthier. All of their meals are packaged individually getting rid of the guesswork. You and the family can choose from an extensive menu or can have personalized meals for any particular allergies, religious reasons or preferences.

Fitlife Foods also prepares daily to-go meals for its members while encouraging a positive lifestyle change. It prides itself on helping customers save time, manage their weight and achieve their goals. They cater to individual needs, providing four membership options. Its most popular option is the 21-day challenge, which includes three healthy, balanced meals a day as well as a personal wellness coach for 21 days. You also can just walk-in and pick up individual meals, including the popular Tampa Bay BBQ Mac n’ Cheese.

Healthy eating is also important when it comes to your child’s school lunch as well. Many parents depend on schools to provide lunch but some schools fall short of providing kids with enjoyable, healthy options.

For parents in Florida, there’s also another option. Created by two moms tired of the unhealthy school lunch options, Wholesome Tummies offers flexible, customizable solutions for all schools, including delivery and on-site food service management. Wholesome Tummies uses only organic or all-natural ingredients and the lunches contain no added trans fats, no high fructose corn syrup, no added nitrates, no artificial colors and no artificial flavors. The company also offers nut-free, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free meals.

Providing your children with the gift of health is the best gift you can give them. Don’t lose sight of all the options available to help you give that gift. Changing eating habits for the better can be difficult, but the rewards are numerous. Family meals are not just nutritionally important, but they’re also important for strengthening your family bond. Even if you’re not sitting around your dinner table, any table with healthy choices on it will do.

For Additional Information on These Topics Visit: (Panera) (Events by Amore) (Fit Life Foods) (Wholesome Tummies)  (Importance of the Family Meal) (Importance,Tips and Recipes) (Effects of Poor Diets for Kids) (Fast Food Facts) (Easy, Healthy Recipes) (Facts on Childhood Obesity and Heart Disease) (Conversation Topics for Family Dinners)