The Big Benefit of Family Meals
Busy schedules have made it increasingly difficult to sit down to dinner as a family these days. In fact, over the past three decades, the number of meals families eat together has declined by more than 30 percent. But even if it’s not that easy to get everyone together for a meal, the benefits of eating together make it worth making family dinners a priority.
There are physical, mental and emotional benefits of eating together as a family. Research shows that children who eat dinner with their family more often may reap these benefits:
- Better eating habits
- Reduced risk of weight problems
- Lower chance of depression, eating disorders, substance abuse or teen pregnancy
- Better academic performance
- Improved self esteem
- Higher-quality relationships with parents
Shared meals give families the opportunity to spend time together and reconnect with one another after a busy day. They help children feel secure and provide structure to their day. They improve communication and the sharing of values and ideas. They contribute to the creation of traditions that tie families together. And they also help improve children develop better eating habits.
When it comes to your children’s diet, a number of studies have found good reasons to get everyone to sit down for dinner together. This includes:
- Better nutrition. One survey found that kids ages 9-14 who ate with their families most frequently consumed higher amounts of important nutrients, like calcium, iron and fiber. They also ate more fruits and vegetables.
- More variety. Eating together provides more opportunity for parents to expose kids to new foods. This helps them develop better eating habits.
- Portion control. The average restaurant meal has 60 percent more calories than a meal made at home. Studies show that when more food is in front of us, we’re more likely to eat more. Parents can better control portions at home.
So the next time you’re tempted to head to the drive-thru on the way to one activity or another, think about why it may be time to move family dinners higher up on your list of priorities.
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Date Last Reviewed: August 23, 2018
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN