Why Making Time for Family Meals Matters
When I grew up, family meals, particularly breakfast and dinner, were the daily norm. Over the years, family meals have eroded, evidenced by more family members grabbing food on the go or eating meals alone. For today’s time-pressed families, eating together regularly can be challenging. The good news is that the benefits of eating together as a family, especially for children and adolescents, are beginning to be recognized.
Reasons why family meals matter
- Families who eat together are more likely to consume nutritionally balanced diets, which can contribute to overall health and well-being.
- Family meals are associated with reduced risk of overweight/obesity. Teenagers, who shared meals with their families, even one to two a week, were at reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese in young adulthood compared to those who never ate family meals, according to a 10-year study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers suggest that a supportive environment, emotional connections, parental role modeling of healthful eating, and the absence of distractions such as watching TV (which is linked to obesity) are possible explanations for this beneficial effect of family meals.
- Kids who participate in family dinners more frequently tend to consume nutrient-rich foods more often, including protein foods, dairy products, grains, fruits, and vegetables, reported a study of third graders. Other benefits included better eating habits, such as consuming regular meals, less snacking on nutrient-poor foods, and eating breakfast, particularly with family members.
- Shared family meals provide time to have conversations, connect, and reflect on what’s going on in each other’s lives.
- Eating together can help children learn social skills, such as manners and how to behave when eating at friends’ homes and restaurants.
- Sharing family meals is linked to children’s academic achievement, language development, reduced risk of substance abuse, and fewer behavioral problems.
There are many good reasons to make time for family meals. The question is how to incorporate family meals in your busy lifestyle. Refer to “Six Simple Ways to Squeeze in Family Meals,” for some tips.