24 July, 2019
Benefits Of Eating Family Meals Together – Including Lowering Risk of Substance Abuse
I grew up in a family that ate at least one meal a day together. That meal was usually dinner but some of my favorite memories of family time was on a Saturday morning for breakfast. For these mornings I loved it when my mom would make pancakes. It was especially special when she added blueberries. This time meant so much to me that I have tried to carry on this tradition with my children. We try to gather together every evening for a homemade, nutritious meal. Just like my mom, I usually cook dinner with special Saturday morning breakfast at times.
Once in a while we will have a movie night where I will make pizzas, hamburgers or hot dogs along with other snack type foods. We will eat while we watch our movie, but this is a special evening and not the norm. Eating in front of a TV, or any device, can actually cause weight gain, and eventually other health related problems according to Harvard Medical. So, I keep these times at a minimum.
Here are my top 7 benefits of eating family meals together, but there are many others! These are the ones that I have seen benefit our family or believe to be the most important.
1. Healthier Meals
Meal time provides a time for you to cook nutritious, healthy foods that you can serve to your family. I have noticed especially in restaurants, kids meals do not include a single vegetable! They are usually comprised of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese or French fries and some sort of soft drink or chocolate milk. The meals are carb and sugar loaded. The younger you start children off eating vegetables, the easier it is to get them to eat them as they get older. They will develop a taste for them. So, when I go to a restaurant, I will purchase an adult meal and split it between two kids. Not only do they get better food, like a side salad, but they usually get more as well and it ends up being cheaper than two kids meals.
So preparing meals at home allows you to get important food groups into your family as well as controlling unwanted ingredients like sodium, preservatives and sugar.
2. Increases Children’s Palates
Making your own meals and eating them around the table can help increase a child’s palate because you can introduce new foods gradually and often. I start doing this right from the time my infants start eating solid food. I do not start them on convenience foods (store bought baby food) but I make sure that at every meal there is something that I can puree to feed the youngest member.
As they grow older, I keep serving them as many different kinds of foods as possible. This has helped my kids not be “as” picky of an eater and they are not afraid of trying new foods. No, they are not perfect. They still have likes and dislikes, but overall they are not picky eaters.
3. Better Relationships
Because we gather as a family once a day, we have the opportunity to talk. Sometimes conversations are serious, or just about the weather or how each others day went. In my family, more often than not we get silly and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine! All of these things strengthens our relationships for one another, making us a part of each other’s lives. This is especially important the older the children get, and start doing more things away from home …. friends, activities, jobs, etc. Family meals create that time for them to come home and share their day with the rest of the family.
When my oldest daughter left home, she said the thing she missed the most was the time and conversations we had around the dinner table. We have made so many memories around our table!
4. Helps Create Manners
Well, I should say it “can” help with manners. I think I have not done as well as I should have with my kids in this area. They really lack in table manners! I just hope we are not invited to the White House, or some important event, for dinner. If we are, I will have to give them a crash course! YIKES! This mother’s nightmare! Anyway, family dinner time is a great time to take advantage of to teach children manners.
5. Less Risk of Substance Abuse
Studies have been done at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse of Columbia University that have proven that children who eat fewer than 2 meals a week with family are more likely to have addictions to tobacco, marijuana and alcohol.
- 3 times likelier to try marijuana
- 2 ½ times likelier to smoke cigarettes
- More than 1 ½ times likelier to drink alcohol
Who wouldn’t want to help reduce their child’s risk of substance abuse? And all by just sitting around the table, eating with your family. This one benefit should encourage parents to put forth more effort to providing family meals.
6. Better Learners
Another study done at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse of Columbia University was that teens who ate dinner with family 7 times a week were 40 % likelier to receive A’s on their report cards. I think a lot of this is attributed to the fact that parents who eat with their children are talking to them more, which increases their vocabulary. Plus, the parents are showing interest in the child and that creates self confidence.
I’m saving the one I think is the most important for last … prayer! This is one of the few times the whole family gathers together and prays. We thank God for providing our food and ask Him to bless it. It might be simple, but very important that children know who our ultimate provider is and create a reverence to God for the simple things in life and the things that we sometimes take for granted.
I know for families nowadays, who are so busy, it can be hard to make sure your family sits down to a home cooked meal. But with so many good benefits, it is really something you should strive for. To help you get started and to make a transition to having more meals together, try these steps:
- Make a menu for the week.
- Make a grocery list of your menu items you need.
- Plan a day to get groceries.
- Plan easy home cooked meals.
- Plan freezer and crock pot meals.
- Set a time for the meal.
- Try to make it a habit.
What is your experience with family meal times? Do you see any benefits in your family? What is keeping you from having meals with your family? I would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below!