The importance of Family Meals can’t be overstated. When it was just my husband and I we often ate dinner in front of the television. When our first child came along it was our priority to start having family meals at the table which grew from the three of us to our family of five now! Family meals can be crazy, loud, stressful and fun, but overall the goal is for family meals to be pleasant.
Although meal times can be stressful, to a young child they are so important and a part of the foundation of healthy eating I advocate for. They are much more than time spent together during our day; they are vital opportunities for us to CONNECT with each other. More and more research is showing the significant health benefits to our children when families commit to eating together with as little as 3 times a week. I want to take some time to outline the benefits of why we should all commit to eating meals together as a family.
These benefits include:
- Improved Food Choices
- Overall Wellness
- Better Family Bonds
Family meal time is more than just sharing a meal! It can help us live a happier, and healthier life.
Improved Food Choices
Eating as a family can help your child(ren) make better food choices and eat better overall. A research review from 2015 shows that families who ate together more often had children who ate more vegetables and fruits, more calcium-rich food and less sugar sweetened beverages (Dwyer et al, 2015). As a result, these children had higher intake of important vitamins and minerals to support growth. Multiple studies showed that when younger children have increased exposure to a variety of foods it can increase their chances of trying new foods and enjoying them in the future. Parents are important role models in a child’s life and when your child sees you eating certain foods it has a significant impact on whether your child will try or accept new foods. The ultimate goal of feeding is for your child to eat family foods, so serving family foods and eating together are important pieces of that puzzle.
The benefits of family meals do not just stop at better food choices but extend to all areas of life including emotional and physical health. Children and adolescents who eat with their families have a positive impression of family meals, better self-esteem and even have higher reported school grades. Another research review has shown that children who eat as a family are often associated with lower disordered eating, alcohol and substance abuse, violent behaviours and depressive thoughts in adolescents. This highlights how connected a family can become and sharing meals can have a much deeper meaning than we may realize (Harrison et al, 2015).
Better Family Bonds
Children who eat with their family are more often seen to have a better sense of security and hold stronger feelings of belonging. This could be as a result passed on through culture, family traditions and the ability to share personal values about food and eating. Overall, the dynamic of eating as a family can positively contribute to create stronger family bonds.
Research shows there are many benefits to a family sitting down and eating together (Scaglioni et al, 2018). Being a mom I can definitely verify that even with good intentions sometimes family meals can be stressful and difficult. Juggling multiple personalities, picky eating and the behaviours of small children… like food throwing and refusing to eat can make mealtimes unpleasant. With some boundaries, consistency, persistence and let’s not forget love family meals can be pleasant again!
Do you make family meals a priority? Can you have 3 family meals a week? What do your family meals look like? Hit reply and let me know!
For more tips on how to make the most of family meals stay tuned for my next post.
A special thank you to Rebecca Yoshida who co-authored and provided significant contributions to the content of this post.
Hennessy, E., Dwyer, L., Oh, A., & Patrick, H. (2015). Promoting family meals: A review of existing interventions and opportunities for future research. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 115.