Benefits of the Family Meal

A shared meal brings people together. It’s good for the spirit and provides the opportunity for family members to reconnect.  It used to be that families sat down to dinner together every night. They would talk about their days, share experiences and relax together.  Over the years, families have found it more and more difficult to keep the tradition alive. Busy schedules get in way, limiting family dinners to less than 5 a week.  Researchers have found that skipping the daily family meal is a huge disservice to our children.

Recent studies have shown that the family meal benefits children in more ways than proper nutrition. Teens that eat regularly with their parents tend to have:

Higher grade point averages and self-esteem

Engage in fewer risky behaviors

Better overall well-being

Fewer eating disorders

Better vocabularies

Less incidents of obesity

Are more resilient

Researchers suggest aiming for at least five meals eaten together, although there doesn’t seem a magic formula.  The best news is that dinner doesn’t have to be the family meal of choice.  Your family may have more flexibility in the morning, or on weekends to enjoy breakfast, or lunch together.  The point is to find the time.

Finding the time for dinner is easier with a little meal planning on the weekends.  Set aside an hour or two to make several meals, and enlist the help of your children. A rotisserie chicken, a pot of chili, or a big breakfast casserole made ahead of time will open up your schedules and allow you to sit down to a meal together.

When you do sit down to a meal together leave the electronics elsewhere.  Encourage conversation among everyone.  Rather than ask “how was your day” which usually begets a one word answer from children, ask open –ended questions that will lead to more conversation.

An added bonus is that sharing a meal and conversation brings a family closer.