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The Benefits of Family Mealtime

Friday, 16 February 2018

 Family Mealtime

Work, school, sports practices, music lessons, rehearsals, and many other scheduling conflicts can make it seem impossible to sit down together for a family meal. We get so caught up in all of our commitments that we often end up eating breakfast bars on the go, and picking up dinner at the drive-through. A recent study by Eckrick showed that 40% of American families eat dinner together only three or fewer times a week. The report also showed that 88% of families would like to increase the time spent with their family at the dinner table.

It can be hard to work your family meals around your crazy life, but here are 7 reasons why you should try!

    • Better Grades

      A research study by the American College of Pediatricians revealed that “Teens who have dinner with their families seven times a week are almost 40 percent likelier to say they receive mostly A’s and B’s in school.” 
    • Healthier Choices

      The same study reveals that children ages 9-14 are 24% more likely to eat healthier foods when families eat meals together. Kids are more likely to be introduced to (and like) fruits and veggies. They are more likely to choose healthy snacks over salty and sugary snacks.
    • Better relationships

      Having mealtime as a family has been linked to building better bonds within your family. Kids feel closer to their parents and are more likely to be open and honest about any issues they’re dealing with.
    • Mental health

      Finding time to eat with your family can reduce stress in kids and adults. Rituals like mealtimes add some structure to a world that often feels frenzied and out of control. Knowing that one part of your day is going to unfold in basically the same way as every other day is comforting.
    • Teach New Skills

      Mealtime and preparation is a great way to get your kids excited about learning to cook. Kids are more likely to try new foods and meals if they help cook them. Let them help make the weekly menu, set the table, prepare the food- cooking is a basic skill they’ll need to learn eventually. When I was growing up, my mom assigned each of the kids one night to make dinner each month. It was a great learning activity.
    • Knowledgeable Kids

      Kids who have family mealtime also have bigger vocabularies and faster language development. Children hear longer discussions, narratives, and hear more words. Language activities in preschool aged children can drastically affect their future literacy skills.
    • Save Money

      Family mealtimes usually take some planning to pull off. Planning ahead can actually save you money! If you plan your mealtimes in advance you can lower your number of trips to the store. You also save on last minute fast food decisions. If you know you’ll still end up going out two or three times a week, plan in advance. 

After I learned the positive impacts of having mealtimes with my family, I started doing my best to make it happen at least three times a week. My husband and I sit down together each Saturday and make our meal plan for the upcoming week. We make a list of everything we need for the week and get our grocery shopping done. If I’m feeling really ahead of the game, I even prep things that can be prepped for later in the week on Sunday afternoon to save time on week nights. We usually take turns cooking. Our daughter is only 10 months old, so she’s not much help in the kitchen (yet). Once dinner is done we eat together at the table. We even pull up the baby’s high chair to the table so she’s eating dinner with us too. She’s already got the art of back and forth conversation down. We can’t understand her babbling nonsense yet, but she understands that people take turns when they’re talking.

Making mealtime a priority can change your family dynamics in so many positive ways. These are only a few of the major benefits. One thing that is important to remember is that every family is different. What works for my family might not work for yours and vice versa. Tailor your mealtimes to YOUR family and find what works for you. If you can’t make it work every day, pick a couple nights a week. If dinners are impossible for your family, have breakfast together each morning. The most important thing is to bond with your family and create healthy conversation and connection.