Scientific research continues to verify what many might consider common sense: Families that regularly eat together eat more nutritiously and the children are less prone to high-risk behaviors.

With that in mind, Gov. Gary Locke has proclaimed October “Eat Better; Eat Together” month. He urges families in Washington state to use the month to establish a routine of regular family meals together.

The effort to promote more family meals is being spearheaded in Washington state by the Nutrition Education Network, an alliance of public and private organizations coordinated through Washington State University Cooperative Extension.

“The challenge to having regular family meals is the increasing demand on our time,” said Sue Butkus, a nutrition specialist at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center.

A national survey has found that children who regularly eat with their families have fewer behavior problems in school and are significantly less likely to get involved in high-risk behaviors such as drugs, alcohol and early sexual behavior.

Another study verified that adolescents who ate with their families four or five times weekly were significantly more likely to eat more vegetables, fruits and dairy products.

Here are some tips for making family meals together a regular routine:
• Take advantage of the mealtimes your family already enjoys together, and gradually add more meals together.
• Make family meals a priority. Limit distractions.
• It doesn’t have to be dinner. Pick meals that are easiest to get the family together.

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