When was the last time your family had a meal together? I don't mean sitting in the car munching on burgers from the drive-through.
I mean sitting down at the table and sharing a home-cooked meal. If you can't remember when you last enjoyed a family dinner, make plans to have them more often.
Experts have found - and continue to discover - plenty of benefits for both children and adults when families have dinner together at least three times a week. I know...I know, it's not always easy, so click here if you need help with meal planning and grocery shopping.
Here are 10 reasons why you should have family meals more often:
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)
3. Children in families who eat dinner together are less likely to be overweight (Source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine). This makes sense, given the findings in #1 and #2 above.
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). So family dinners are not only good for the body; they're also good for the brain.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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")
I hope these reasons motivate you and your family to try and eat together more often. We're all busy - even children have plenty of after-school activities. But as the list above shows, family meals are worth every effort we put into them. It helps to plan ahead so that we're not scrambling to get dinner ready or panicking because we don't have all the ingredients we need.
To make it easier to get the family around the table with a home-cooked meal, check out Dine Without Whine's menu planning service. It cost just a penny to try it out!