The Importance of Eating Meals Together as a Family

The importance of eating together as a family goes beyond just being ‘good for you’. There are actually scientific reasons why this is important for your children. With a little intention, you can make this happen more often for your family :)

This blog was sponsored by Heinens local grocery.


One of the best things I did when my kids were younger was sign up for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). You learn so much from other moms going through motherhood. One of the moms recommended a book she was reading. A chapter in the book that was fascinating to me was the importance of eating meals together as a family. It’s not just about eating dinner together as a family (because I know this isn’t realistic in many families all the time); it can be ANY meal, any snack, at any time. Children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. After reading this, you realize all the things you worry about as a parent can be improved just by sitting down to regular family meals.

Some of the many benefits of eating together as a family :

Mental Health

Frequent family dinners make a huge impact on children’s mental health. One study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that kids who regularly enjoyed family meals were less likely to experience symptoms of depression and less likely to get into drug use. More research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. The most comprehensive survey done on this topic, a University of Michigan report discovered the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems.

Mealtime was more influential that time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports. (Bruce Feiler)

Better Bonds

The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Research also suggests that when a family eats together they feel a strong bond with one another. Everyone leads different lives at work and school, and dinner time allows families to reconnect. And you’ll also be able to keep tabs on your kids’ lives. Try asking your kids what the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ part of their day was to get them to open up and converse.



Physical Health

Families that eat together make better choices. If you are eating at home, you are more likely to be eating healthier meals than eating out at a restaurant or carry-out. Kids who eat more meals together with their families tend to eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods, and vitamins, and ate less junk food. Children in families who frequently shared meals also tended to have a lower body mass index than those who didn’t. Family dinners don’t have to be fancy! We stick to simple dinners, but always aim for lots of real whole foods.


Lets face it. If you have little ones at home, family dinners are actually just chaos. But they are indeed learning things amidst slinging dinner on the wall, crying, and doing everything but eating. They are learning how to use utensils, language skills (from you and your spouse talking), patience, and social skills that include manners and taking turns.


Rethink the Ritual:

  • If nightly dinners aren’t pheasable, aim for once a week.

  • Not home from work by 6 pm? Gather everyone at 8pm for dessert, a bedtime snack or just to chat about the day.

  • Weekdays just plain ole too busy? Aim for the weekends.

  • Don’t have time to cook? Try Heinen’s Organic Rotisserie Chicken + Heinen’s ready made broccoli salad. Have healthy dinner on the table in minutes!



    Tips for eating more meals together:

  • Increase the number of family meals by one extra meal a week.

  • Plan a menu for the week and include the family in creating it.

  • Let the kids be involved. Let them help prepare food or set the table

  • Clean up together as a family.

  • Have a no electric rule, including turning the TV off.



    Of all the things parents try to do to promote healthy & happy kids, this may be one of the easiest things to implement in the house! Your home cooked meals don’t have to be fancy. Enjoying basic meals with loved ones makes for the best eating. Eat simply. Eat together.




Resources:

https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-research/reports/importance-of-family-dinners-2012

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/the-importance-of-eating-together/374256/

http://healthland.time.com/2012/04/24/why-families-who-eat-together-are-healthier/

The Secrets of Happy Families (Bruce Feiler)