Whether it’s for a birthday, a holiday, or just for no reason at all, we shower our kids with gifts throughout their lives. As our children grow, their closets and dressers see many articles of clothing come and go, but how many of those items will remain indelibly etched in their minds? When making memories, it’s not usually the material items that get remembered and re-emerge on a daily basis; it’s the life lessons that really penetrate.

Right before my middle son was about to embark on his first business trip, he asked, “Could you teach me how to iron?” That question hit me like a ton of bricks. All I could think about was that my father was a tailor … how could I have never taught my kids how to iron—or sew, for that matter? Before he caught his plane I proceeded to enrolled him in Ironing 101, and this exchange made me think even more deeply about the impact I was making on their lives when showing them how to have a wonderful and healthy relationship with food.

As parents, whether we like it or not, we are teaching lessons every day. Our children observe and often model our moves, our decisions, and our habits, even if no words about these actions are ever spoken.

Although our hectic lives don’t always allow us to share a meal or snack, numerous reports have shown that when families grab some table time together, kids tend to eat more vegetables and fruits and have less fried foods and sugared soft drinks. Moreover, family meals may even influence younger children to be less likely to be overweight. Less drug use, alcohol abuse, and cigarette smoking have also been shown among families that share a meal.

But don’t let carpools, after-school activities for kids, or your own after-hours work make you feel like bringing the family together over a meal is impossible. Despite frenzied schedules and increasing demands, even having a snack together can help you share more than food; you can share conversations about your day or their encounters or talk about family events that are going to be happening.

And don’t think you have to become America’s Top Chef to bring your family together for a meal. Even breaking (hopefully whole grain) bread over a spread that you ordered in from a restaurant can still allow you to share conversations. Try to enlist some help in menu planning and food shopping by getting your kids involved in preparation. Perhaps start with a “Top Your Own Pizza” night, and have everyone add their favorite veggies, cheese, and sauce toppings, or turn your kitchen counter into a salad bar and have each person put in a request for toppings.

And most importantly, remember that you set an example each time you set the table. Andrew Carnegie once said, “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” So keep in mind that that the next time you push away the Brussels Sprouts … someone could be watching!

Your own diet is important on many levels—not only does it give your children a guide to follow, but it also gives you the opportunity to stay strong, energized, and healthy so that you can all share many more happy moments together. You won’t believe how many memories will come from those family meals.

What are you bringing to the table tonight? Share a photo with me on Instagram @bonnietaubdix. ?