Family meals, once a mainstay, now seem like a challenge with varied schedules, events and activities. However, eating together as a family has numerous benefits for the growth and development of children as well as the family as a whole. In honor of Eat Better, Eat Together Month, we present the following information and tips.
The Benefits of Eating Together
- More family communication. Sharing meals together yields conversation and an opportunity for parents to talk to their children about life, school and other family concerns. It also provides opportunities for parents to “check in” with their kids while observing their moods and behavior to make sure they’re doing okay.
- Improved nutrition. Families who eat together are more likely to eat healthier. At the same time, children are more likely to learn healthy eating skills that transcend to adulthood. Children whose families eat together also have a lower risk of being overweight.
- Teaches social skills and table manners. Eating together provides parents the opportunity to teach children how to behave at meals, have proper manners, and helps foster social skills. Additionally, kids whose families eat meals together tend to get along better with others.
- Reinforce cultural identity. Family meals can help to reinforce cultural identity through expression of values, norms and cultural food choices.
- Greater sense of well-being. Research indicates that kids whose families eat together are better adjusted, earn higher grades and are more motivated in school, and have reduced chances of substance abuse.
- Stronger family identity. Spending time together increases feelings of togetherness, security and belonging.
- Teaches basic cooking skills and encourages more home cooking. Enjoying family meals also helps encourage home cooking. At the same time, children also have the opportunity to observe and learn basic cooking skills. Plus, it can help you save money, as the cost of taking a family out to dinner can add up quickly.
Family Dinner Tips
- Avoid distractions. Create a “no electronics” rule to encourage communication and togetherness. Turn the TV off, leave cell phones on the counter, don’t answer the house phone, and keep tablets and computers away from the table. All of these things can create distractions, inhibit family time and harm communication skills.
- Commit to specific days. Find days with minimal scheduling conflicts and declare them as family dinner nights. Write them down on the calendar so everyone knows.
- Plan ahead. Determine what you want to cook and when you want to cook it. There are many great ideas for make-ahead meals you can prepare in advance and quickly heat up when needed.
- Overwhelmed by cooking? Double your recipes or cook extras and declare a designated leftover night to clean out the fridge.
- Get your kids involved. Shopping and cooking with your kids is a great way to develop healthy habits. Plus they’ll be more likely to eat foods they’ve contributed to.
- Don’t restrict yourself to dinner. Family meals are often assumed to be dinner. If you’re unable to eat dinner together, make a plan for breakfast or lunch. Take advantage of days off and determine what meals would work with everyone’s schedules.
- Encourage communication. Ask your kids questions about their day and tell them about yours. Talk about good things that happened and the not-so-good things.
For Health Advocate Members
- If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our Wellness Coaching Program, call us today to connect with a Wellness Coach for more great tips to keep your family healthy!
- If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Service, our Licensed Professional Counselors are available to help you and your family communicate more effectively.