The sit-down meal is an endangered family function thanks to hectic schedules, television and video games, and the perceived uncoolness of noshing with the folks.

Why fret: Family meals foster communication and usually lead to higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, calcium, and fiber and lower amounts of unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium, says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, RD, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. No surprise then that a 2007 Journal of the American Dietetic Association study found that tykes who took in fewer family meals (and watched more TV) were more likely to be overweight. Plus, research last year at the University of Minnesota found that adolescent girls who ate often with family were less prone to use cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

Try this: Commit to a sit-down meal most days of the week, suggests Brenda J. Ponichtera, RD, author of Quick and Healthy Recipes and Ideas (Small Steps, 2008). And don't overlook breakfast as potential family time, says Ayoob. “Kids who eat a well-balanced breakfast do better in school, have improved vitamin and mineral intake, and are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight.”