Julie Penkalski, Teen Liaison for Hope Academy, a program of Family & Children’s Center
For many, family mealtime has been lost in our overscheduled lives. For many families, school, work schedules and extracurricular activities can make it difficult to find time to eat together and some go days or weeks without sitting down as a family to share a meal. However, family meals are important and should be considered part of our daily requirements.
Researchers have found that families who share meals together on a regular basis, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner reap many benefits.
- Family meals are more nutritious. A Harvard study found that families who eat together are twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables as families who don’t eat together.
- Kids who eat family meals tend to eat a wider variety of foods and become less picky eaters.
- Family meals provide an opportunity for family members to come together, strengthen ties and build better relationships. They build a sense of belonging which leads to better self-esteem.
- Family meals offer parents a chance to be role models. They can set an example of healthy eating and polite table manners.
- Family meals help prevent obesity. Research shows that people tend to eat less during family meals because they eat more slowly, and talk more.
- Research shows that kids who eat family meals have a lower chance of engaging in high risk behaviors such as substance use and violence, and fewer psychological problems.
Tips for eating more meals together:
- Make family meals a priority in your household. Focus on the importance of being together as a family more than on making an elaborate meal.
- Start with small steps. Increase the number of family meals by one extra meal a week.
- As a family, plan a menu for the week and make a grocery list.
- Let the kids be involved. Let them help prepare food or set the table.
- Work as a family to clean up afterwards.
- Turn off the TV.
It’s worth a try. More family mealtime could mean large rewards for your family.