07 Oct The Importance of Eating Family Dinners Together
The Importance of Eating Family Dinners Together
By: Ruben J. Rucoba, MD
With so much attention paid to what we eat, we often forget to focus on how we eat. Mealtimes should be a shared experience, and research shows that frequently eating dinner together as a family provides a lot of benefits for both children and parents. One study found that less than 60% of children eat five or more meals with their parents each week. Compared to their peers, those who do eat 5 or more meals with their parents found that they:
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Are less likely to become obese in their youth
- Are more likely to eat healthier and maintain a healthy weight as adults
- Are far less likely to initiate alcohol and cigarette use
- Are less likely to regularly abuse alcohol and drugs
- Are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior
- Are less likely to carry or use a weapon
- Have lower rates of depressive symptoms and suicide attempts
- Have higher levels of self-esteem and well-being
- Have higher grade point averages
- Have a richer vocabulary
- Have more commitment to learning
Studies have also found that frequent family meals benefit the parents, as they are associated with higher levels of well-being and self-esteem, and lower levels of stress.
Life now is full of time-constraints, with homework, sports practices, and games, exercise, work obligations, and other demands on everyone’s time. But with all the benefits listed above, it makes sense that we all should demonstrate to our families how important they are by making time to have dinner together regularly.
If the idea of preparing meals stresses you out, the kids can help. The time spent preparing a meal together is just as valuable as the time spent eating it. And there is no law that says the meal has to be prepared from scratch. Having take-out, delivery, or store-prepared food saves time, and can often be as nutritious as home-made. The key is the sharing of the meal, so do that however you can.
Don’t fret if you can’t have every dinner with all of the family every night. Even if one parent and one child are sharing a dinner, they both will benefit.
Frequent family dinners are a simple, inexpensive way to foster good family dynamics, build close relationships with your children, create lasting fun memories, and boost your children’s emotional and cognitive well-being. Start now: have dinner together as a family tonight!