What do you see when you picture a family dinner in your mind? A home cooked meal served at a dining table, with parents and children discussing the events of the day? In our busy lives, taking the time to sit down together, eat a home cooked meal, and talking with each other can seem out of reach. But the benefits are definitely worth it.
Eat Smarter with Family Meals
Families who eat dinner together have better diets overall. They eat more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat. Parents role model healthy eating for their kids, like enjoying a variety of vegetables and choosing whole grains.
These benefits are even greater when parents invite kids into the kitchen to cook. When kids are involved with preparing meals, they’re more likely to eat those foods. This makes kids more open to trying and enjoying new foods. And they’ll feel good about doing something “grown‐up.”
- Teach your kids to create healthy meals.
- They learn from watching you. Eat fruits and veggies and your kids will too.
Build Strong Connections with Family Meals
Sitting around the table is the perfect place to share quality time as a family. Talk about how your day went or what your kids learned about at school. Pass along family traditions by sharing stories from your childhood. Or use these fun conversation starters to make things a little more interesting. Letting kids practice their conversational skills helps build their confidence in talking to others.
Having these conversations helps you keep up with what’s happening in your children’s lives. Teens whose families who eat dinner together regularly are more likely to do well in school and less likely to make risky decisions (drugs, alcohol, sexual activity). You may also be able to spot signs of bullying.
Take a break from the screens to keep the focus on each other. Turn off the TV and put away cell phones during mealtime. Watching TV or being glued to the phone during dinner cancels out the benefits of eating together.
Family meals are also where kids learn table manners and dinner chores. Show them how to set the table and help clean up. You’ll appreciate the extra help!
- Talk to each other. Conversation starters are a fun idea for family meals.
- Pay attention to what’s going on in your children’s lives.
- Remove distractions. Turn off the TV and cell phones so your attention is on each other.
- Kids learn by doing. Let everyone help with dinner chores.
It takes a little work to bring everyone together for meals. But it’s worth it when the whole family eats smarter and grows stronger. What were family meals like for you growing up? How can you make family meals a bigger priority in your house?