For many families mealtime has been lost in our overscheduled, hectic, busy, and hard to manage lives. School, whether online or in-person, work schedules, and extracurricular activities can make it difficult to find time to eat together. Some go days or weeks without sitting down as a family to share a meal. However, family meals are important and should be considered part of our daily requirements. In this blog, we will discuss some features of why it is important to bring the family back to the table.
Researchers have found that families who share meals together on a regular basis, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner reap many benefits.
Family meals tend to be more nutritious. A Harvard study found that families who eat together are twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables as families who don’t eat together. Let’s face it, when you do a grab-and-go meal, most of the prepared foods that are easy to take on the road with you are not focused on the food groups.
Kids who eat family meals tend to eat a wider variety of foods and become less picky eaters. Try to get the kids involved with choosing what is on the menu. Even get them involved with writing out the grocery list. Ask them to source the items in the store and to pick out the cut of meat at our meat counter. Perhaps they can even pair it with their choice of in-season vegetables. Make family mealtime more than just a few minutes around the table – enjoy the entire process of farm to table.
Family meals provide an opportunity for family members to come together, strengthen ties and build better relationships. They build a sense of belonging which leads to better self-esteem. How often do you say “good morning” to a family member and then maybe have very little to no interaction with them for the entire day? Even though you are working or doing school within the same four walls? Setting time aside that works for everyone in the family to come to the table is very important for relationship building and mental health.
Family meals offer parents a chance to be role models. They can set an example of healthy eating and polite table manners. As parents, we don’t have to be drill sergeants but have some fun with the younger kids while teaching proper table manners. Perhaps even have role reversal meals where the kids can sit at the head of the table, say the grace, as well as clean up the dinnerware after the meal. Allow them to make mealtime what they will – it’s a learning adventure for everyone involved. For the older children, encourage the entire family to come to the table and to leave their phones in another room! Sitting at the table and eating while on a device just has no place in the home.
Family meals help prevent obesity. Research shows that people tend to eat less during family meals because they eat more slowly, and talk more. Allow each person around the table to share something that they are learning or working on. Encourage questions to take place. Often times more learning can happen while at the dinner table than actually working on a school project.
Research shows that kids who eat family meals have a lower chance of engaging in high-risk behaviors such as substance use and violence. And even fewer psychological problems. Ensuring that the home is a safe place with nutritious food choices is important to people of all ages. From the very young to the aging – we all need healthy options to eat for meals and snacks as well as time to fellowship and be with others.
If you missed our blog on Cooking Chicken Breast in the oven, click here to get caught up on some tips and tricks for making a delicious chicken meal. We also provided a lot of great recipes to try in our blog titled Healthy Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less. Read the article here.
If you are looking to find out how other families are bringing the family back to the table, you may be interested in a book titled “Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook”. This book shares 52 weeks of ideas for achievable family dinners with great food, fun, and conversation. Using real stories from families who have become a part of The Family Dinner Project over the years, they share tips to overcome common dinnertime obstacles, set goals, and get closer as a family. You’ll find chapters on picky eating, screen time, tension at the table, busy schedules, and more – plus hundreds of easy recipes and tons of ideas for engaging conversation and exciting dinner games.
It’s worth a try. More family mealtime could mean some large rewards for your family. We know that it won’t be easy, but nothing worth achieving comes without a bit of work. Start small and set some time aside to find out and discuss as a family when meal times together can work and then schedule them into your calendar! Don’t forget to stop by our farm store and let us know what you are having for your family dinner. We’d love to hear your stories.