Every Meal Together Counts
FEBRUARY 17, 2020
With the hustle and bustle of school, chores, practices, games, recitals, homework, jobs, babies etc. it can feel almost impossible to sit down and eat a meal together as a family. Even with busy schedules, the average American family eats together three times per week.1 There is no magic number to how many times a family should eat together each week, although the more the family eats together, the more likely their family is to grow stronger.
Although building relationships with family members should be one of the top priorities of family mealtime, it is by far not the only benefit. See the advice from the American College of Pediatricians, “How to have a Healthy Family Table,” as well as their poster on The Family Table.
Other benefits include:
Better Communication- Better communication and knowledge of each other’s lives will increase and grow stronger quickly but must be done in the correct way. A recent study, “showed that turning off the TV was significantly associated with better nutritional health and improving the family bond. You can eat together every night of the week, but if the TV is on and no one is communicating, it has less value.”
Eating Healthier- Meals do not need to be made from scratch for them to be healthy. While making your own meals has many benefits, most families do not have time or energy to do that every night of the week. “If families have a mix of fresh food and pre-prepared food — perhaps a fresh salad with a frozen pizza — we have found that to be good enough with regard to health benefits compared to a meal made from scratch.”
Learning Opportunities– This is an area that parents can really jump into and teach their children many different responsibilities and life lessons without anything feeling like a chore. Chores done with a positive attitude won’t feel like chores. They can learn how to use utensils, what food works well together, and how to cook and clean and set the table. Their horizons will also be expanded to different foods. Children who help prepare and cook the food are more likely to establish healthier eating habits and more likely to branch out and try new foods.
3This can happen because the children become more familiar and comfortable with the foods that they are helping to prepare and will feel proud of what they have accomplished.
The more time and energy that goes into preparing dinner and eating it together, the more benefits will come. But even if your dinner is a delivered pizza or leftover casserole, each meal together as a family is still important. Dedicate a few days out of the week that the family can commit to eat together. Remember that eating together doesn’t always have to be at dinner time, you could also do breakfast or lunch. Turn the television off and make meaningful memories!
1.Rosenbloom, C. (2019, November 20). Perspective | Seven research-backed tips to make the most of family meals, no matter how often they happen. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/seven-research-backed-tips-to-make-the-most-of-family-meals-no-matter-how-often-they-happen/2019/11/19/d432492e-0577-11ea-b17d-8b867891d39d_story.html
2.Healthy Eating handout from the American College of Pediatricians
3.Ben-Joseph, E. P. (Ed.). (2018, June). Healthy Eating (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/habits.html
4.default – Stanford Children’s Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=why-the-family-meal-is-important-1-701