Family Meal Times Matter
As parents the daily task list is long and seemingly endless. Prioritizing what is important becomes a necessity during these modern times when our lives seem busier than ever before. Togetherness and a sense of connection can get lost in the age of mobile devices and overbooked schedules. For the health and well-being of our children, family meal times has many long lasting benefits. Studies have shown that families that eat together are happier and healthier. The benefits can include a healthier diet, lower rates of obesity, higher self-esteem, more positive body image, and better grades. Family meals have the potential to nourish not only the stomach but the mind and soul as well.
One of the best ways to improve a child’s diet is serving healthy foods and sitting down together to enjoy it. Meal time is a good opportunity to model healthy eating. This applies to even the pickiest of eaters. Studies show that children need to be introduced to a food up to 15 times before they will accept it. If your child won’t partake, don’t pressure them, just serve yourself a nice size portion and enjoy. In time they might come around, especially if you help to include them with the preparation of the meal. Children who participate in preparing their own meals tend to be more likely to eat them. Plus the ritual of preparing family meals teaches your child how to cook and that nutritious meals are important. To make it fun and to help avoid the food battle, you can create opportunities to build your own meals with a buffet-style set-up. Tacos, sandwiches, soups, salads, pizzas, and pastas are some family favorites that gives plenty of options to pick and choose. Eating together also provides structure that helps both children and adults develop sound eating patterns and regular mealtimes.
Beyond a good nutritious meal, sitting down together also helps with socialization. When dining together children have their parents undivided attention, with mobile devices put away and the television off. It is an opportunity to practice socializing within a group setting and learning table manners. But don’t forget to have fun and enjoy one another’s company. This isn’t the time to discuss bad grades, chores, politics, or anything else that could take away focus from connecting. Keep table talk interesting by engaging in a question game, planning your next family vacation, discussing an upcoming celebration, or the best part about your day. Family meals should be a welcoming space that everyone looks forward to.
Shared meals don’t necessarily have to be at dinner time. It is whenever works best for your family. Enjoy a weekday pancake breakfast or a weekend brunch. A Columbia University study found that five to seven family meals a week had the greatest benefits in the well-being and high-quality relationships with parents. So squeeze in as many meals together as you can and let the bonding begin!