The answer is yes. Eating together is linked with healthier weights in children and choosing better foods (1). When kids sit down on a regular basis and eat with their families they eat healthier. For example they tend to eat more vegetables and fruit, more fibre and vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, calcium and iron as well as less sweet, salty and fried foods and drinking pop (4).
There are many reasons to eat family meals. Family meals are a time for learning and communicating. Use the time to check in with each other about the day, or life in general, what are things you are grateful for, what was something you did today that you were proud of? Get your kids involved in the family meal, this will help teach them about food- including how to choose and prepare foods. Blog post Involving your Kids coming soon. Eating family meals can also be a great way to share family and cultural traditions with your kids (1).
Sometimes people feel that it has to be dinner that is eaten together as the family meal. Families these days are busy, parents may not get home in time from work, kids have different activities, I completely understand! The good news is that it can be any meal eaten together. Honestly, the more, the better. Even if it can’t be a full meal, even sitting together to have a snack (or two) can be beneficial.
So what are some of the benefits?
· The more family meals that are eaten are connected with an increase in family support, communication and expectations (4).
· For teens, eating together with their families helps lower the risk for substance abuse and other behaviours such as early sexual activity and less fights compared to those who eat with their parents less often (4).
· Having family meals has been shown to lower the risk of being overweight and obese for both children and teens.
· For teens, eating together more often seems to have a protective effect from eating disorders (4).
· Children in high school who ate family meals 4 or more times a week had better grades (4).
In short, eating together means eating better. The more you can do it the better, and eating any meal or snack together can bring about the same benefits.
Wondering how to make family meals happen in your home? Contact Jill, Nurture The Future’s Registered Dietitian at firstname.lastname@example.org