I have my meals planned this week. But rather than posting my plan (it’s just pasta Monday, fish Tuesday, meatless on Wednesday, frozen leftovers on Thursday), I thought I’d post my rationale for eating together.
When I was out walking recently, my daughter Katie said to me, “You know what I like about our family, Mommy? We eat together.”
It’s such a little thing, but when the girls have friends over, it’s amazing how many confess that it’s a new experience for them. Most people eat in front of the TV, or they grab dinner on the run.
And that’s not good. It’s over food that we connect, talk, share, and bond.
But I know meal planning takes time, especially when everyone has busy schedules. But it is more important for your family to eat dinner together at least 3 times a week than it is for your kids to all be in soccer, or to all be on the baseball team. Family trumps sports. It really does. As adults, kids will remember sitting with family and the relationships that grew from that far more than they will anything else.
If you don’t have time to eat dinner together, you’re doing something wrong. You have to change your schedule. No ifs, ands, or buts. And if you don’t believe me, read on! Here are 10 benefits from eating together:
It’s Good for the Body!
1. When families eat together, everyone tends to eat healthier. People who have frequent family meals consume more calcium, fiber, iron, and vitamins B6, B12, C and E. It could be because home-cooked meals are healthier than fast food and restaurant meals. (Source: Archives of Family Medicine)
2. Children tend to eat more fruits and vegetables when they frequently have dinner with their families. They also tend to eat fewer snack foods. (Source: American Dietetic Association) When we eat all together, we cook meatloaf with veggies on the side or we make stew. When the kids eat alone, we heat up chicken fingers. Not good.
3. Children in families who eat dinner together are less likely to be overweight (Source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine). I think this is also because parents are watching what they eat! And when we snack in front of the TV, we eat way more than if we were sitting at a table.
It’s Good For The Brain
4. Children from families who eat meals together get better grades than their peers who don’t have lots of family meal times (Source: Lou Harris-Reader’s Digest National Poll).
5. When families eat together frequently, children have better language skills compared to kids from families who don’t have family mealtimes often. (Source: Harvard University) TV doesn’t teach language skills well. When we eat at the table, kids hear their parents talking to each other, too. It’s great!
It’s Good For Emotional Health
6. Children of families who eat together report feeling happier and are more optimistic about the future, than their peers who have infrequent family meals. (Source: Lou Harris- Reader’s Digest National Poll)
7. Teenagers are less likely to use drugs, smoke, and drink alcoholic drinks, when their families eat together regularly. (Source: Columbia University) I read this study a few years ago and have quoted it frequently. When we eat dinner, we catch up with our kids. They know we care. So they’re less likely to give in to peer pressure!
8. It may come as a surprise, but among Moms who work outside the home, those who have family mealtimes reported feeling less stress than those who had family dinners less often. (Source: Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal) When we feel that our priorities are being met, we feel less stress.
9. The more often teen girls had meals with their families, the less likely they were to have symptoms of depression and suicidal behaviors. (Source: University of Minnesota) And fewer teenage pregnancies!
It’s Good For Family Bonding
10. Eating together gives family members the chance to communicate and build relationships, something that both adults and children appreciate very much. (Source: Nutrition Education Network of Washington & Oprah Winfrey’s “Family Dinner Experiment”)
We’re all busy – even our kids are busy these days with all their sports and activities! But don’t ever let yourselves become too busy that you can’t eat together as a family on a regular basis.