Families are busy, but it is incredibly valuable for families to pause and take time to share meals together. It has been shown that families who eat together eat healthier meals. Families that plan their menus on a weekly basis also save time and money.
What are the benefits of family mealtime?
Most American families are starved for time to spend together, and dinner may be the only time of the day when we can reconnect. In fact, on average, parents spend about 38 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.
The benefits of eating together as a family at least 3 or more times per week has shown to reduce risky behaviors in children (such as smoking, drinking, using drugs and suicide) and increase their self-esteem and school grades will be better. In fact, a study conducted in Utah County found that among Utah students, those who ate five or more meals every week were half as likely to have considered suicide in the past year.
Family meals allow time for bonding, constancy, and aiding in children’s social growth. Meal times provide an opportunity to model healthy choices and have open discussions about good nutrition.
I am so busy, how can we have family meal time?
Time is certainly one of the biggest obstacles to families gathering for dinner.
- Set a goal of 2 or 3 times a week to start and build from there.
- Keep meals simple and plan ahead.
- Family meals don't have to be elaborate.
- Work fruits and vegetables into meals.
- Focus on familiar favorites.
- Get the family involved. Let kids help prepare meals and set the table.
- Make freezer-friendly meals.
- Be creative with meal times and location. For example, if you are at a soccer game, bring a picnic blanket and sandwiches. That also counts!
- Turn off the electronics. Make dinner time about conversation, not about television or other distractions.
What’s the connection?
Experts believe a regular face-time between parents and children facilitates communication, which, in turn, helps parents guide their children's behavior. Avoid criticism and passing judgment. Meal time is not a time for complaints or for too many questions. These benefits are achieved by talking, listening, and building strong family relationships.