There are many benefits to eating together
What are family meals?
The term family meal may bring up images of a family on a 1950’s TV show, sitting around a table full of platters of food, without any mess in sight. But when we talk about family meals, it just means eating together without distractions like TVs or phones and having a conversation. Your ‘family’ may be parents and children, or it may include grandparents or aunts and uncles, or it could be your roommates. You could sit around a kitchen table, or you could gather somewhere else such as at stools around the counter. The most important part is being together.
Why are family meals important?
Meal time can be a great time to talk and make sure everyone is unplugged from screens and iPods. Family meals can help everyone in your family eat healthier and sharing a good meal is a great opening for family conversation. Research has found that eating family meals has many benefits, including:
- Better academic performance.
- Higher self-esteem.
- Greater sense of resilience.
- Lower risk of substance abuse.
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy.
- Lower risk of depression.
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders.
- Lower rates of obesity.
Tips for family meals
In today’s busy world, finding time for family meals can be hard. But with so many benefits, it’s worth it to try to build a habit of having family meals. Try these tips for getting started.
- Dinner is the most common family meal but it doesn’t have to be. If your evening schedules are too packed, try family breakfast or lunch.
- Start with a goal of one or two meals together per week. Once you achieve that, work toward more frequent family meals.
- Ask other family members to help with menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. Check out our recipes for ideas for what to make.
- Choose a time when all or most family members can be present.
- Enlist support for having family meals from adults and kids in the home, so you can work together to get everyone in the family on the same page.
- Turn off the television; mealtime is a time to talk with one another.
- Turn off cell phones and leave them in a different room to discourage everyone from texting or answering phone calls and encourage all family members to be present.
- Make the time together pleasant. Encourage each family member to talk about his or her day — try asking everyone to share the silliest thing that happened in their day, or what they are most proud of or frustrated with. Mealtime is not the time for discipline.