It is significantly less common for families to eat meals together now than it was a few decades ago. In her article, “A Family That Eats Together…Stays Together,” University of Tennessee’s Sarah Ransom points to an increasingly independent culture as a reason that families dine separately which can lead individuals, especially children, to feeling of isolated. Reintroducing family meals can provide a healthy, fun, and nurturing environment that can reduce feelings of isolation and provide many other benefits as well! Eating as a family has been linked to:
- Reduced rates of obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, and behavioral problems
- Improved communication skills, nutrition, academic achievement and a tighter family unit
Some barriers to family meals may be easier to overcome than you think. Consider the following tips for creating a healthy mealtime environment at home.
- Tasty Savings—Even though buying a prepared meal may appear to be less expensive than a basket of groceries, when buying the ingredients separately you actually get more food for your money.
- Can’t Cook?—Cooking is a learning experience; try cooking with friends to get started or pick up a basic cookbook.
- Busy Evenings—If supper-time is too hectic to eat together, try for family breakfast or lunch, or start the tradition of family meals by eating together a couple times per week as schedules allow.
- Fussy Eaters—Involve the whole family in meal plans. They will be more likely to eat and enjoy the food if they are involved in its preparation.
- Healthy Convenience—While going out to a restaurant or heating a prepackaged meal are easy options, you can make family meals more convenient for your family’s busy schedule by preparing meals in advance or reheating frozen leftovers.
The benefits of eating together as a family outweigh the troubles of preparing a meal. Family meals can help children become developmentally stable, ready to learn and develop healthy relationships, not to mention have better nutrition and healthier eating habits.
Katherine Baildon, Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs
Ransom, Sarah, “A Family that Eats Together…Stays Together.” University of Tennessee Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Family Ties Newsletter.