Due to the jam-packed nature of our schedules, family mealtime is often the first thing to fall through the cracks. Sitting down at the table for breakfast or dinner is easily replaced with grabbing food on the go or chowing down in front of the TV or computer. It may feel unrealistic to strive for family meals every day, however there are proven to be many physical and mental health benefits of even just slightly more quality time around the table.
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4 Reasons To Prioritize Eating Meals as a Family
1. Stronger family connection
Coming together as a family for mealtimes provides the opportunity to engage in conversation and build stronger family relationships. Around the table, everyone can share about the ups and downs of their week without distractions. Family meals can facilitate a space for belonging, which is shown to have a positive impact on self-esteem.
2. Modeling healthy attitudes around food
Eating meals as a family promotes healthy attitudes and behaviors around food. Parents can act as role models, as they demonstrate appropriate portion sizes, stopping eating when full, and openness to trying new foods. Parents can also model the concept of moderation instead of restriction and labeling certain foods as ‘bad’ or off-limits.
3. Physical health benefits
Research has found that there are numerous health benefits to engaging in family mealtime on a regular basis. Studies reveal that families who eat together are more likely to consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables than those who do not. Individuals also tend to eat less during family meals, which can help to prevent obesity.
4. Reduced risk for mental health issues
There has also been found to be a correlation between family meals and a lower risk of children developing mental health issues or engaging in substance use. Quality time together also contributes to building a strong family support network that can help a child to process and cope with life’s challenges.
Tips for Incorporating More Family Meals
Start small. It doesn’t have to be a drastic shift towards daily family dinners. Think about how you could take one small step- maybe that’s implementing a weekly family meal to start building the habit, and going from there.
Focus less on the food and more on the quality time. It is less important to prepare a fancy meal than to facilitate the space for family bonding and conversation. Think about easy, quick simple dishes or snacks that your family would enjoy having together.
Plan ahead. Consider the week ahead and generate a plan for what days and times might work the best for shared meals. Plan a menu and grocery list ahead of time.
Try going tech-free. Lay out the ground rules for family mealtimes, such as no electronics to emphasize being in the moment. Turn off the TV as well to limit distractions.
Divide up tasks. Get everyone in the family involved in food preparation, setting the table and cleaning up afterwards.
Prioritizing time for regular family meals can have a significant impact on the strength of the family unit, as well as each family member’s health and well-being. It is worth it to consider small steps you might take towards incorporating more shared meals into your family’s routine.