The importance of eating together as a family goes beyond just being ‘good for you’. There are actually scientific reasons why this is important for your children. With a little intention, you can make this happen more often for your family.
One of the best things I did when my kids were younger was sign up for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). You learn so much from other moms going through motherhood. One of the moms recommended a book she was reading, The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler. A chapter in the book that was fascinating to me was the importance of eating meals together as a family. It’s not just about eating dinner together as a family (because I know this isn’t realistic all the time), it can be ANY meal, any snack, at any time. Children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets and higher self-esteem. After reading this, you realize a lot of the things you worry about as a parent can be improved juts by sitting down to regular family meals.
Some of the many benefits of eating together as a family include:
Improved Mental Health
Frequent family dinners make a huge impact on children’s mental health. One study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that kids who regularly enjoyed family meals were less likely to experience symptoms of depression and avoid risky behavior. The most comprehensive survey done on this topic, a report by the University of Michigan discovered the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems.
The Opportunity to Build Stronger Bonds
Research suggests that when a family eats together they feel a stronger bond. Mealtime allows families to slow down during their busy day making the dinner table a place for conversation and a time to reconnect with one another.
Improved Physical Health
Families that eat together make better choices. If you are eating at home, you are more likely to be eating healthier meals than eating out at a restaurant or carry-out. Kids who eat meals at home are also more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and less junk food.
Let’s face it. If you have little ones at home, dinnertime can actually be chaotic, but family dinners don’t have to be fancy! We usually stick to simple dinners, but always aim for lots of real whole foods. Heinen’s makes this so easy! Don’t worry! Amidst slinging dinner on the wall, crying and doing everything but eating, having your little ones at the table teaches them how to use utensils, language skills, social skills, manners and patience.
It’s time to Rethink the Ritual
- If nightly dinners aren’t feasible, aim for once a week.
- Not home from work by 6 pm? Gather everyone at 8pm for dessert or a quick bedtime snack to spend time together and chat about the day.
- Weekdays just too busy? Aim for the weekends.
- Don’t have time to cook? Try Heinen’s Organic Rotisserie Chicken and Heinen’s ready-made broccoli salad or sides. Have a healthy dinner on the table in minutes without the hassle.
Tips for Eating More Meals Together
- Increase the number of family meals by one extra meal a week.
- Plan a menu for the week and include the family while creating it.
- Let the kids be involved. Let them help prepare food or set the table.
- Clean up together as a family.
- Have a no electric rule, including turning the TV off during dinner.
Of all the things parents try to do to promote healthy and happy kids, this may be one of the easiest things to implement in the house! Enjoying meals with loved ones makes for the best eating. Eat simply. Eat together.
The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler