Reap the Benefits of Family Meal Time
Families today are busy with different work schedules, activities and sports. Sometimes it can be very difficult to find time for everyone to eat together as a family.
There is a lot of work that often goes into meal planning, purchasing groceries, preparing food and cleaning up. It can make the appeal of picking up dinner from the drive-through very tempting.
However, carving out time every day to eat as a family has many benefits – for our health, our wallets and our mental well-being.
Health Benefits of Family Mealtimes
- More fruits and vegetables are consumed
- Higher intakes of important nutrients and vitamins
- Portions are more controlled. Families typically eat slower when they are talking and discussing their day.
- A wider variety of foods are served
- Family members learn important hygiene lessons like hand washing before eating
Mental Health Benefits
- Family members feel more supported and connected.
- Children who eat with their family regularly choose more positive peer influences as well as positive adult role models
- Increased vocabulary for children
- Older children are less likely to engage in risky behavior if they have regular sit-down meals with their family
- Children and teens are more likely to be motivated and succeed in school
- Children learn better table manners
How it Can Benefit Your Budget
- When you eat out you spend time driving to the restaurant, waiting to be served, waiting for food, eating and driving home
- Eating out is much more expensive then preparing food at home
Make Small Goals
Increase the numbers of meals eaten as a family slowly. Increase your meals together by one or two days in a week. Your meals at home don’t have to be complicated to reap the benefits; make simple meals that your children can help with.
Turn Off Electronics
This is just as important adults as it is for teens or children. Eating at the dinner table should be a time when we all have our family’s undivided attention. This means making meal times a no cell phone, TV, tablet or any other electronics space. We all really can benefit from a little time away from our devices.
Keep Conversations Positive
This is a great time to mention the highlight of each person’s day. You could make conversation cards if you need some help with topics.
You can also teach your kids about the food you are serving, where it came from and how it got to the table. If you have someone in your house with an active personality you may need to allow them to stand or get a swivel chair in order to allow them to move during mealtime.
Involve the Whole Family
Everyone can pitch in and make family meals simpler. Take turns setting the table, clearing the table, and doing the dishes. Get the entire family involved in menu planning. This could include looking for recipes in books or online. Have kids rate or leave comments about new meals.
You can even start a small, indoor herb garden and use the herbs when cooking. Children are more likely to eat what they help to prepare so get them involved as much as possible.
Family mealtime has so many benefits; it’s worth the effort to make it happen.
By Patricia Bates, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center