Making Family Meal Times a Priority
The Importance of Family Meals for Kids
Sometimes a very simple act can have important, long-lasting benefits. According to parenting and health experts, that is exactly the case with family mealtimes. Eating and talking together can help children be happier, healthier, and more successful at school. Family mealtimes can also help make parenting easier! Here are a few key reasons to make family mealtimes more of a priority in your home.
What Research Says About Family Meals
Family mealtimes are about much more than just eating food together. Long-standing research shows that enjoying more meals as a family offers numerous health benefits- physical, mental, and emotional- to children. The benefits of family mealtime go beyond what’s being served at the table. Eating together is one important way to build a sense of family unity. Developing a sense of family identity and togetherness helps children feel safe and secure in a world that can be confusing. Mealtime conversations also translate into success at school. As children listen to adults talk, they learn important language skills, such as new vocabulary and putting words into sentences. These skills, which are necessary for understanding what you read and for expressing yourself verbally, then help children do better in the classroom and on tests.
Family Mealtimes Improve Family Nutrition
What you put on the table is also important. When families make mealtimes more of a priority, they naturally tend to pay more attention to what is served. Children who have more family meals get more of the nutrient-rich foods that build strong bodies and smart brains: more fruits, veggies, lean meats, and milk; fewer fried foods and soft drinks. Smart eating habits help children grow up with a healthy weight, avoiding problems like being seriously overweight or developing an eating disorder. During family meals, you can model positive, healthy habits for your children, such as eating slowly, enjoying a variety of foods, and stopping when you are comfortably satisfied rather than overstuffed.
Finding Your Family Mealtime Routine
While my personal goal is to each dinner together as a family almost every night, I know that’s not our current reality. Between varying bedtimes, work schedules, and after-school activities, every night isn’t feasible. My new goal is to eat at least ONE meal together each day. And more often than not, that’s breakfast. We are all awake and need to be out the door around the same time, as a family. Whether it’s Sunday dinner, a Tuesday breakfast, or a Friday lunch, I encourage you to set aside time for at least one special meal each week with your family or a friend. One seems reasonable enough, right? And yes, that means TV off and cell phones away. You’re making memories that will last a lifetime- and continue beyond.