8 Unexpected Benefits of Eating Together as a FamilyErin Whitehead
In my household, we don’t eat together as a family. Well, we kind of do, but we’re missing a key player: my husband. My kids get hungry like clockwork at 5 p.m. Some days if I’m really procrastinating, I can push dinnertime to 5:30 or so, but the more I push it, the more I risk epic hunger meltdowns. So I preempt getting to Crazed Hungry Monster territory and do dinner earlier than I’d like—and earlier than my husband could possibly be home.
Three of four of us eating together isn’t bad, and the more research I do on the benefits of eating together as a family, the more determined I am to stick with it (and hopefully add my husband to the mix!) as time goes on. Granted, it’s easier now because my kids are young enough that they’re not being pulled in a million directions with after-school activities, sports practice, and friends, but I figure the more we do it, the better off we’ll all be. That’s why I’m determined to make it a habit now, to help it stick.
There are so many good reasons for eating together as a family, from better health to more veggie intake. And of course, there are the great memories to be made. If you need a few reasons why you should prioritize family meals, read on!
8 Reasons to Eat as a Family 1 of 9
Eight reasons you should prioritize dinner time!
It Emphasizes Healthy Habits 2 of 9
The frequency of family meals relates to kids' health. Research shows that kids and adolescents who shared family meals three or more times a week are more likely to have healthier dietary and eating patterns than those who share fewer than three family meals together. In addition, they are less likely to engage in disordered eating. The more meals, the merrier, it seems.
It Supports Healthy Weight 3 of 9
Research shows that kids and adolescents who shared family meals three or more times a week are more likely to be in a normal weight range. Another study showed that when low-income families devoted three to four extra minutes to regular family mealtimes, their children's ability to achieve and maintain a normal weight improved. In that study, children whose families sat together for 20 minutes four times a week weighed significantly less than kids who left the table after 15 to 17 minutes. So don't eat and run; take your time and talk between bites!
You’ll Eat More Veggies 4 of 9
It doesn't take eating every meal together to reap the rewards. Eating meals together as a family, even only a couple of times a week, increases children's daily fruit and vegetable intake according to research. It must be harder to skip veggies when mom is encouraging taking a few bites of her new veggie side, and when you know you have to set a good example, you're probably more likely to eat more veggies, too! In addition, children whose parents cut up fruit and vegetables for them ate more fruits and veggies than children of parents who never cut up their fruit and vegetables.
Photo credit: wsilver, Flickr
It’s Good For Grades 5 of 9
Good health habits, such as eating and sleep patterns, are linked to academic success, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kids thrive on routine, and if you're eating together, it's easier to make sure your kids are getting enough breakfast to power them through their morning. Making meals family time ensures your kids aren't skipping meals when they need those meals for fuel and growth spurts!
Photo credit: ToolManTimTaylor, Flickr
It’s A Learning Opportunity 6 of 9
When kids read books about nutrition, they more than doubled their voluntary intake of vegetables during snack time, according to one study. Knowing how foods are benefiting their bodies may go a long way in getting them to actually eat them! So give kids credit for their smarts, and use dinner time as an opportunity to explain why it's important to eat those veggies.
Photo credit: Keith Weller, Flickr
It’s Good For Mental Health 7 of 9
Eating with your family every day may drive you crazy at times, but in terms of true mental health, it's actually a real benefit. One study showed that regular family meals contribute to good mental health in adolescents. Frequent family dinners related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, great emotional well-being, and higher life satisfaction.
It’s Less Stressful 8 of 9
Researchers have found that husbands and wives are happier when they share household and child-rearing responsibilities. It stands to reason that both parties are also happier when they share dinner responsibilities! From personal experience, dinner goes much more smoothly when we're both on hand to deal with sippy cups flying across the room and incessant calls for "More! More!"
Photo credit: Rachel Zack, Flickr
It’s Fun 9 of 9
Besides all of the health benefits, eating as a family is fun! (And even fun and companionship have their own health benefits, as laughing and smiling are known mood boosters.) You can rehash your days, talk about issues and concerns, chat world events; it doesn't matter, meals as a family are always bonding moments.
Photo credit: tawalker, Flickr
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