What's a Family To Do
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Here's something to chew on: only 43 percent of families eat together every day. Should we be concerned? Does it really matter if most families aren't eating together?
Researchers have been taking a very close look at this question. Not surprisingly, they have found that family meals have a very positive impact on children and their nutrition habits, education and their ability to communicate.
Here are some of the benefits they have identified:
- Eating together at least three times a week decreased tendencies in children to make unhealthy food choices.
- Regular meals together help children do better in school, experience fewer behavioral problems and have better nutrition habits.
- Family meals have a direct impact on the vocabulary development of younger children.
- Adolescents and teens who eat with their families more often are less likely to smoke, use drugs or drink alcohol.
If eating together as a family really does make a difference, why aren't more families doing this? In 2010, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found the answer to this question. The families and teens surveyed gave these reasons: family members are too busy, parents work late, children are involved in sports or with friends, and everyone wants to do their own thing. Interestingly, 60 percent of the teens surveyed stated they would like to have more meals with their families.
With the importance of family meals well established, here are some tips that experts recommend for family meals:
- Make family meals non-negotiable. Start with just a few meals weekly. Mark them on your calendar and begin planning your menu. Don't forget to involve the kids.
- Think simple. You don't have to be June Cleaver or Carol Brady to pull off family meals. Soup, sandwiches or veggie pizza qualify, as long as the entire family is sitting around the table interacting.
- Get the entire family involved. Meal prep isn't just for moms. Kids can help with menu planning, washing veggies and setting the table.
- Limit distractions. Up to 33 percent of families report watching television, emailing, texting or talking on the phone during meals. This limits interaction. Instead, set the mood with relaxing music.