The simple act of sharing meals provides many benefits to all family members. Attending the family meal just a few times a week can has been shown to improve family unity, language development and even decreases substance abuse. Read our tips below to incorporate more family meals into your routine.
Benefits of Family Mealtime
- The family meal provides a sense of unity and gives families the chance to talk freely.
- Parents can use the family meal to monitor how their children are feeling.
- Family conversation helps young children learn new words, begin to understand language and build conversation skills.
- Family meals can improve a child’s well-being. These include a decreased risk of substance use, improved personal and social well-being, and better academic performance.
- Family meals provide a perfect opportunity to model healthy eating habits. Adults can show moderate portion sizes and encourage new foods
- Parents can use family mealtime to encourage courtesy and teach social manners.
- Regular family meals are strongly associated with increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains and other healthy food choices.
- Children and adolescents who attend regular family meals are less of a risk for childhood obesity.
Source: Food Marketing Institute
- Set a goal to have regular family meals at least 3 to 4 times per week, if possible. Most research notes some type of improvement in a child’s outcome when the family participated in at least three meals together each week. If dinner doesn’t work due to schedules, try breakfast or snack time.
- Remember consistency. Routine family meals can generate feelings of closeness and comfort. Even when mealtimes are hectic, having a regular mealtime schedule can provide children with needed stability.
- Pay attention to the quality of family mealtime. This is a key time to communicate as a family. Avoid outside distractions as much as possible. Turn off the TV and cell phones and ask each other open-ended questions about the day, school, friends and any goals family members have.