Make the Kitchen the Heart of Your Home

Our hectic lives have made dinnertime into a fast food caloric refueling. Recent studies suggest that eating as a family is directly correlated with improved grades and less involvement with drugs and alcohol among teens.

Being together is the magic. Creating a space that invites your family to gather together allows you to simply use your kitchen table, lighting, and time to create family rituals to bring that magic home.

Here are 5 easy steps to create successful family meal times:

1. Sit around a table. Why a table? It is easiest to make eye contact. It is also the most comfortable seating, inviting people to relax, linger and connect. What happens when people sit at a counter? Sitting in a row requires that you turn to see the person next to you and perching on a kitchen stool does not encourage real relaxation. Eating in front of the television promotes less communication between people, as well as unconscious eating. Studies have correlated TV-based eating with increased consumption of calories, fats and sugars.

2. Use the magic of light to bring your family together. People, like plants, are drawn to light. A chandelier or pendant light hung over the family table creates a warm pool of light that literally draws people in, like people gathering around a campfire. Recessed ceiling lights or flat, fluorescent panels do not create the same effect. If you do not have pendant lighting, then use candles or move the table closer to a window.

3. Turn down the volume. After school and the commute home, everyone is at a high pitch. When it is time to sit down to the table, turn off the television, video games and telephones (let the answering machine pick up your calls). Lower your own speaking voice and remind your kids to use their "indoor voices." Soft background music is optional. A friend's 3-year-old son was so caught up in watching TV that he would rush through his dinner to get back to the television, so this mother decided that the TV would be off for 30 minutes to have a quiet and focused meal time. Initially Timmy protested, then he discovered the fun of having mealtime with his mom.

4. Start mealtime with a ritual or family tradition. Ring a chime, light candles (always supervise children around flames), say grace, hold hands for a moment of silence. A very simple gesture which has the magic of ritual is to simply pass the food around the table, family style, rather than self serve. You are literally sharing the food. Is there a family tradition you would like to adopt or revive? Go for it!

5. Use this golden time to teach by example. Table manners (a great life skill and confidence booster) and conversational skills such as listening and taking turns demonstrate attitudes of respect and caring for family members by tone of voice and helping. This is a great time to teach family values, while discussing everyday happenings and current events.

Food, security and love are intertwined in our deepest emotions. Family meals are really about sharing love in the form of time, attention and nourishing food. Create a warm gathering space for your family to share. Connect and make the everyday experience a moment of celebration.

Linda Varone, RN, MA, CFS, of Nurturing Spaces, is a consultant and professional speaker who is a pioneer in integrating feng shui, interior design and architectural psychology. She has appeared on WCVB-TV's “Chronicle.” Linda can be reached at or her website