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Families that make an effort to eat meals together at least three or four times a week enjoy significant benefits to their health, well-being, and relationships, all of which are backed by research.
Family Meals Lead to Better Nutrition and Emotional Health
Research shows that children who share family meals three or more times a week are more likely to be in a healthy weight range and have healthier eating patterns. They’re less likely to eat unhealthy foods, more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to have an eating disorder.
But that’s far from all.
Teens who eat with their families at least five times a week are 40 percent more likely to get A’s and B’s in school than their peers who don’t share family meals. They’re also 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana. They were also less depressed.
- Fewer emotional and behavioral problems
- Greater emotional well-being
- More trusting and helpful behaviors toward others
- Higher life satisfaction
Families Who Eat Together Build Stronger Relationships
Culturally, humans have been joining together for meals since ancient times, and we may be engrained to build relationships in this way. Even in modern times, family relationships appear to grow stronger around the dinner table, with another study concluding:
“Our findings suggest that family meals may provide a unique opportunity for building stronger families and young people. Creating environments where frequent family meals are normative, valued and feasible for families may result in benefits for young people that extend beyond good nutrition.”
Still more benefits associated with family meals include:
- Better vocabulary development among children
- Increased self esteem
- Helps children build resilience
- Lower rates of teenage pregnancy
Making Family Meals a Priority
We believe that one of the keys to optimal health is having someone in your family (or someone you hire) invest some time in your kitchen, preparing meals from scratch. (The more unprocessed, the better.)
Spending the time together to eat the meal you’ve prepared is likely equally important, but both take planning to make them a reality. One of our favorite sayings with respect to your meals is if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.
This means not only shopping ahead of time so you have the food available to cook, but also setting aside the time to eat together. Many sports for kids are scheduled at the family dinner hour, for instance, or parents may have a hard time getting home from work at a reasonable hour.
If you value the importance of a family meal, however, you must make it a priority. This might mean your family meal takes place at lunchtime instead of dinnertime on certain days of the week, but ideally strive to eat together as often as you can, scheduling non-essential activities around your dinner, and not the other way around.
Getting your children involved teaches them invaluable lessons about food preparation and how you function together as a family, and the more you involve them in the process, the greater the benefits are likely to be.