Why Family Meals Matter
When was the last time you sat down for a meal with your family? Was it last night, last week or last month? For some families, eating together is reserved for special events and holidays, like birthdays or Thanksgiving. These special occasion meals allow families to connect with each other, strengthen family ties and pass on family cultural traditions.
But family meals don’t have to be reserved for special occasions. Family meals can happen any time of day, any day of the week! If the words “I’m too busy” pop into your mind, you’re not alone. You probably even hear this from other parents and peers.
But family meals can fit into even the busiest of schedules and they offer a host of benefits for children and adults alike!
Children who eat with their families are better nourished, have lower rates of obesity and better vocabularies. These factors can have a positive impact on classroom behavior and academic performance. And when it comes to improving the health of our children, family meals are a great way to instill healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Research into family meals and their benefits is becoming more in depth, with some interesting findings:
- Dining as a family can create an environment for parents to lead by example for their children. Children who eat with their families consume more fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy foods compared to those who eat fewer family meals. Parents will be thrilled to learn that young adults who were raised eating regular family meals consume more vegetables (there is hope yet for teenagers!)
- Adults also report that eating as a family is a positive portion of their day. Mealtime creates a feeling of togetherness and family cohesion. The concept of family meals does not exclude single-parent homes or couples without children. The routine associated with meals can provide a protective value for some of the risks associated with single-parent homes. For couples, the routine of sitting down together carves out time for each other and creates work schedule boundaries creating a balance between work and personal life.
- There is an association between family meal frequency and lower rates of obesity. However, while the meals are more nutritious (especially when prepared and eaten at home) they are not necessarily lower in calorie. Family meals consumed while distracted (watching television, taking phone calls, reading the mail) may actually increase food consumption.