The Benefits of Eating Together

"Come and get it!" It may be dinnertime, but when was the last time your family sat down and enjoyed a meal together? With music lessons, ball practice, play rehearsal and work schedules, rounding up the troops for an evening meal can be almost impossible. However, research shows that eating as a family has great benefits for your children and teenagers. Here are eight more reasons you should try to sit down together at least a few times a week, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
 

Reason #1: Communication and Well-Being


Conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, plan, connect and learn from one another. It’s a chance to share information and news of the day, as well as give extra attention to your children and teens. Family meals foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging. It can be a unifying experience for all.
 

Reason #2: Model Manners (and more)


Family mealtime is the perfect opportunity to display appropriate table manners, meal etiquette and social skills. Keep the mood light, relaxed and loving. Try not to instruct or criticize—lead by example.
 

Reason # 3: Expand Their World…One Food at a Time


Encourage your children to try new foods, without forcing, coercing or bribing. Introduce a new food along with some of the standby favorites. Remember, it can take 8-10 exposures to a new food before it is accepted, so be patient. Trying a new food is like starting a new hobby. It expands your child’s knowledge, experience, and skill.
  • Include foods from other cultures and countries.
  • Select a new vegetable from a local farmer’s market.
  • Have your child select a new recipe from a cookbook, website, newspaper or magazine.

Reason #4: Nourish


Meals prepared and eaten at home are usually more nutritious and healthy. They contain more fruits, vegetables and dairy products, along with additional nutrients such as fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C and folate. Home-cooked meals are usually not fried or highly salted, plus soda and sweetened beverage consumption is usually lower at the dinner table.
 

Reason #5: Teach Self-Sufficiency


Children today are missing out on the importance of knowing how to plan and prepare meals. Basic cooking, baking and food preparation are necessities for being self-sufficient. Involve your family in menu planning, grocery shopping and food preparation. Preschoolers can tear lettuce, cut bananas and set the table. Older children can pour milk, peel vegetables and mix batter. Teenagers can dice, chop, bake and grill. Working as a team puts the meal on the table faster, as well as makes everyone more responsible and accepting of the outcome. Improved eating habits come with "ownership" of a meal.
 

Reason #6: Prevent Destructive Behaviors


Research shows that frequent family dinners (five or more a week), are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers when compared to families that eat together two or fewer times per week. Even as older children’s schedules get more complicated, it is important to make an effort to eat meals together.
 

Reason #7: Improve Grades


Children do better in school when they eat more meals with their parents and family. Teenagers who eat dinner four or more times per week with their families have higher academic performance compared with teenagers who eat with their families two or fewer times per week.
 

Reason # 8: Save Money


Meals purchased away from home cost two to four times more than meals prepared at home. Due to scheduling, commitments and activities, many families eat out several times each week.

It is time to bring the "family" back to the dinner table. Sharing dinner together gives everyone a sense of identity. It can help ease day-to-day conflicts, as well as establish traditions and memories that can last a lifetime.
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Member Comments

good article Report
I grew up in a home where both parents worked, and we made sure we had one meal a day together as a family. I am now a senior citizen and till today,I try to have at least one meal together with my children, if we are all at home. It has helped us stay connected as a family all these years. Report
ELRIDDICK
Thanks for sharing Report
thank you Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
We always eat our dinners together. Report
We’re still working on those manners! Report
Every grocery store visit the kids get to pick 1 new thing each time, and Saturdays we try an international meal with as authentic ingredients as possible. It's a lot of fun and both my kids aren't very pcik eaters because of it, willing to try new things pretty easy, since we have done this since they were tiny babies. Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
We try to eat dinner together every night. Report
Sharing gives you an opportunity to teach! Report
Appreciate those family dinners together! In the blink of an eye, the kids will be grown and raising their own families. Report
Thank you! Great article! Report
I really like having a family dinner. Report
Thanks for the info. Report
Since I am alone the TV is my meal companion! Report
SUGARLAND8
My husband and I enjoy eating our meals together and having a nice conversation. Report

About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.