Sitting down together to enjoy a family meal provides more than the food prepared. Benefits of sharing a meal together include:
Connection – People of all ages eat better when meals are shared with family and friends. Any meal counts, not just dinner. The meal can be shared at home or on the go. Have lunch with a co-worker instead of eating alone, go to your local senior center to enjoy activities and a meal with others or have lunch with your child at school.
Emotional well-being – Children from families who eat meals together are less likely to be depressed or engage in risky behavior. Mealtime provides an opportunity for family members to share what’s happening in their daily lives. Make this a time for pleasant conversation.
Academic success – Children learn social skills such as taking turns and engaging in conversation. Their vocabulary increases and they learn how to express their ideas. This explains why children who eat family meals more often are found to do better in school.
Healthier eating habits and weight – Meals planned and prepared at home are normally more nutritious than meals eaten alone or on the run. More fruits and vegetables are served in meals made at home. Family meals are also associated with healthier weights in children and adults.
Tips for Family Meals
- Turn off the technology – Put away the phones, email and television. Focus on being together.
- Schedule it – Put it on your calendar. Set a goal to add one more family meal per week.
- Keep other meals in mind – If dinner doesn’t work, try breakfast or a late night snack together.
- Keep it simple – Double batch and freeze casseroles or make a big batch of soup. Serve some now, freeze the rest for next week’s dinner. Serve a favorite sandwhich, fruit and milk for an easy meal.
- Have everyone pitch in – Even young children can help cook simple dishes by adding ingredients or sprinkling on toppings.
- Make it fun – Create a meal based on a book like Green Eggs and Ham. Have an indoor picnic. Let teens select mealtime music.
- Make it Matter – Talk about important things like family history, dreams for the future, real world events and earlier life events.
Family mealtime provides numerous benefits to family members. Personalize and plan meals to meet the needs and schedules of all family members. Make them a priority.
For more information, check out Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Center website and look for fact sheets HGIC 4105, Making Mealtimes Pleasant or HGIC 4240, Quick Meals.
- Bailey, Sandra, “Family Mealtime.” Montana State University Extension, June 11, 2018, <www.msuextension.org >
- “Mealtime Fact Sheets”. Oregon Dairy Council, June 11, 2018, <www.healthoregon/sharedmeals>
- “ Tips for Families”. The Family Dinner Project. Harvard University, June 11, 2018, <https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/>