“Dinner Time!” Magical Benefits of Family Meals

Published January 21, 2021

The ritual of sitting down to dinner together as a family is one that can’t be beaten when it comes to raising great kids. The laundry list (or shall we say grocery list?) of benefits spans a wide range which includes:

  • lower rate of obesity
  • better grades
  • heightened self-esteem
  • reduction in depression
  • increased resilience
  • less risk of substance abuse
  • increased health and wellness

All that from a sit-down meal?

Yes! The research is overwhelmingly positive when it comes to good things happening over a meal. You can’t help but love the idea in theory, but in practice? When you consider the pace of life in the average family with activities, work schedules, sports practices, homework and more the seemingly simple task of meeting for an evening meal can be a bit daunting. If you find it hard to find the time to sit down together, you are not alone. That’s why the following tips can be helpful in renewing or establishing better dinner time habits.

Keep it Simple. You don’t need to be a gourmet cook to reap the benefits of time at the table. The truth is that the food on the table is only part of the equation. While a balanced meal is important (add some veggies to the plate) the mere act of eating together opens up the door for family communication and laughter. So, don’t sweat the menu, instead focus on a shared time. Bringing take out to the table rather than eating in the car is an easy first step on busy nights.

Family Can be Two or Twelve. A family dinner is what you make it. When schedules collide and you can’t get all the kids or adults to the table, never fear. Use that time to have a little one on one time with those who are at home. In fact when you have a smaller group it is easy to make it more special with favorite foods and heart to heart discussions.

Make it an Electronics Free Zone. An easy rule and perhaps the best boost you can give your family time, keep those electronics (far, far, far) away from the dinner table! This includes the TV. Having the TV on is an instant damper to spontaneous conversation and studies show that kids and adults make better nutrition choices when they aren’t in front of a screen. Your kids might initially think this is the worst punishment known to mankind but trust us, after a few meals they will find that they survive, even thrive without their devices.

Engage Conversation. No TV and no texting? Yikes, what is a family to do? Talk, talk, talk. Tell old stories, find out about everyone’s day, gently debate the latest in music. Keep it light and relevant to the age levels of your kids. Ban hot button topics at the dinner table which might destroy the atmosphere of togetherness. Little ones will enjoy table games such as practicing colors or counting with things on their plate. Older kids will enjoy a chance to be heard and converse on topics important to them such as their friends and activities.

Every Meal is Better with Help. The kitchen can be a lonely place when you are trying to get a meal on the table. Taking the time to teach your kids how to help will pay great dividends. From setting the table to planning the meals, even toddlers can get in on the action. Choosing a night a week for each child to be your helper is a great way to start!

Remember, the most important step is getting your loved ones to the table and enjoying them. You can’t go wrong with more quality time with your kids and the mental, emotional and physical benefits make it a win again and again.

Tags: , ,