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.
Bringing the family together for regular meals has a protective effect in a variety of ways. Children who are engaged with their parents through family meals are more likely to limit their use of harmful or illegal substances; achieve greater success in school; develop a high self-esteem; experience fewer mental and behavioral issues, including fewer serious thoughts of suicide; have lower obesity rates; cultivate improved communication skills; build stronger ties with their families; and develop healthier eating and lifestyle habits.
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 one time 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. These benefits are achieved by talking, listening, and building strong family relationships.