The Benefits of Family Meals

Created by Rachel Raymond, Dietetic Intern

Late workdays and after-school activities are only a couple of the reasons why family meals are often placed on the back burner. With all of these distractions and commitments, it’s easy to opt for grab-and-go options instead of sitting down to a family meal. Because of this widespread mentality, many are missing out on the benefits of regular family meals.

Some of the benefits that children experience as a result of having family meals include:

  • Higher fruit, vegetable, grain, and calcium-rich food intake
  • Lower intake of soft drinks
  • Healthier body weight
  • Lower chance of using drugs, cigarettes or alcohol
  • Greater bond with parents and family members
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower likelihood of developing an eating disorder
  • Less suicidal ideation and attempts

If you’re struggling to get your family together for meals, remember that family mealtimes don’t need to be long formal events. Even a quick sit-down meal can be beneficial. Follow these tips to allow your kids to reap all the benefits listed above[1]:

1.      Set a goal of how many times you want to have meals as a family. Start small if you need to. Build from there.

2.      Keep the meals simple. Remember, these meals don’t need to be extravagant. Even pizza – enjoyed together – counts as a family meal! Maybe plan your kids’ favorite meals for the nights you want to eat together so that they’ll be excited to participate.

3.      Plan a menu and go grocery shopping. This will make it easier to follow your meal schedule and keep you from choosing take-out. Plus, keeping healthy ingredients on hand will help you and your family make healthier choices.

4.      Have family members give ideas for the weekly menu to keep them looking forward to those times together.

5.      Get the whole family involved in dinner time! Have the kids help prepare meals and set the table. This time together allows for memorable bonding and teaching moments.

6.      Use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker for busy nights. These options will help you to stick to your menu even on nights when you come home exhausted.

7.      If you choose take-out, enjoy it as a family. This still counts as a family meal!

8.      Make dinnertime enjoyable! Ask everyone to share the highlights of the day. Don’t use this time to scold the kids or they’ll probably want to avoid family dinners in the future.

9.      Keep the television off! Studies show that those who watch television during dinner have higher intakes of soft drinks and fried foods, and lower intakes of vegetables and grains[2].

10.   Don’t feed the kids early simply to allow your spouse to enjoy a peaceful meal alone. This will isolate and distance your spouse from the family dynamics. Try to find a time that works for everyone.

Now that you have these ideas, go ahead and set your goals! Making family meals part of your schedule may seem difficult at first but before you know it, everyone will be looking forward to family dinner time. Feel free to leave us a comment below if any of these ideas helped you and your family.

[1] Family Dinners Are Important

[2] Family meals and adolescents: what have we learned from Project EAT (Eating Among Teens)?

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