One constant routine around our household was dinnertime! From catching an episode of your favorite TV series with your loved ones around family meals to heavy discussions on effects of government policies, to conversation about the banal – upcoming baseball season or plans of next outdoor adventure. One common factor that tied our lives….was the togetherness, the sense of security & bonding.
This simple act of sharing meals with family and friends, that we all know as“Eating Together,” has been practiced since the dawn of humanity. With our fast paced lives comprising of zoom meetings, constant engagement over the phone or a computer, children’s activities & in some cases long commutes; family meals can often take a back seat. Did you know that merely 40% of American families eat together, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital’s family dinner study? What difference does it make?
Family dinnertime is much more than just filling hungry tummies. When a family sits down together to eat, it helps them cope with the tensions and nuisances of daily life. Eating together encourages more reasonable eating habits. It in turn makes it easier for family members to manage their health, particularly their weight.
“The vital component of family meals, according to experts, is the bonding, togetherness, not timing.”
Let us ponder over some facts! Obesity in children and adolescents is a major problem in the United States, affecting their overall health as a problem. Amongst children and adolescents aged 2-19 years in 2017-2018, the prevalence of obesity was 19.3% and affected about 14.4 million children and adolescents (1)“
One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners,” says Joseph Califano, Jr., Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA).
HERE ARE TOP 4 REASONS WHY EATING MEALS AS A FAMILY IS A GOOD IDEA:
For starters, dinnertime with the family provides an opportunity for open discussion. This allows parents to teach their kids, healthy communication without the use of electronic gadgets as distractions. Not only a dinnertime discussion enhances vocabulary in young children but also teaches them culturally relevant communication skills. It gives everyone around the dinner table an opportunity to share things from mundane to important.
The researchers found out that kids are exposed to numerous rare words, (discounting the 3000 most simple words we generally utilize) – that the families used during dinner conversation. Around 1,000 unusual words are learnt by young kids at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from parents reading storybooks aloud.
HEALTHY EATING CHOICES
As per researchers, when families eat together, they eat more vegetables and fruits. And less of fried meals, soda, and trans-fat items. Children who eat dinner with their families on a regular basis are less likely to be overweight than other children.
It is the perfect time to introduce new foods, variety of foods to build the palate & establish healthy eating habits in kids. This however changes during adolescence when individuals are less likely to eat at home.
“In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.” – (“Quote by Marge Kennedy: “In truth a family is what you …”)
Dinner is an excellent opportunity for children to develop their self-esteem. By listening to your children, you are essentially telling them that, “I value, respect and understand who you are & the importance of what you’re doing.” Family meals helps to reinforce each family member’s sense of belonging. Spending quality time with your near & dear one’s fosters emotional equilibrium, a sense of well-being, positive behavior, and stronger bonds.
Eating together can be a terrific stress reliever. Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. Dinner may be the one time of day when parents and children can have a lovely experience shared over a well-prepared meal, a joke, or a narrative – and ultimately these modest moments can grow into stronger bonds away from the table.
According to studies, children who eat meals with their families are more likely to achieve high grades and make more friends than those who do not. In a New Zealand study, a higher frequency of family meals was strongly associated with positive moods in adolescents.
Similarly, other studies have found that youths who eat with their families on a daily basis have a more optimistic outlook on the future than their friends who do not.
7 EASY TIPS FOR ORGANIZING FAMILY MEALTIMES
That nightly supper does not have to be a 5-course meal or a gourmet feast that requires elaborate preparation. It also does not need extravagant ingredients like organic asparagus or heirloom carrots to make family dinner. Below are few pointers that will make, prepping family meals an easy affair:
- Set aside a goal for yourself. Schedule spending quality time with your family – maybe, thrice a week? Sunday brunches or stepping out in the nature for a family picnic are the perfect window of opportunity to do so.
- Simply keep an easy, straightforward approach. It is not necessary to prepare complex dinners for your family. Incorporate more of salads and vegetables into your meals. Focus on comfort foods like soups & grilled cheese sandwiches or one-pot dishes or make-ahead spreads & dips.
“Being able to cook is a major life-skill, all kids should learn before stepping into the world as an adult.”
- Prepare yourself. Keep healthy-eating supplies on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Switch up with a supply of healthy ‘snacks.’ Fill the kitchen with fresh fruits, nuts, and low-fat cheese, which the kids can have instead of chips after school.
- Involve the entire family. Ask children to assist with meal preparation and the table setting.
- Make use of the crock pot or instant cooker. Before you leave for work in the morning, put everything together. You will return home to the delightful aroma of a freshly prepared meal.
- Takeout, pizza, or dining away are all options. It is still valid.
Bringing the entire family to the table for meals not only boosts physical and emotional wellbeing but also creates lifelong memories.
What are some of the ways YOU make family mealtime special? How often do you eat together? Leave a comment below! It is super helpful for us and other readers.
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