My personal mission to ensure that my family eats meals together most nights of the week probably arose out of my childhood memories. Every night at six o’ clock Mom rang the dinner bell to call the six children and Dad to dinner. We would gather around the table, say grace, chat, joke, bicker and share food. It was a ritual that we could all count on. Rules and manners were enforced with a gentle but consistent firmness, traditions and family stories were passed on and the family bonds were created.I am sure that this created my love for good food and companionship.
The family mealtime has been studied by multitudes of nutrition and social science academics. Is it beneficial? Is it important? Studies have shown that having regular family meals (3 or more times a week) is a positive predictor of outcomes such as higher academic achievement, healthier diets, avoidance of drugs, lower incidence of depression, and lower risk of early sexual activity among children and teenagers. As a dietitian I appreciate the scientific validation of the importance of regular family mealtimes on all aspects of a child’s well being. As a parent, I know that I feel more connected, happier and even eat more healthfully when I am eating at the dinner table with my family!
Miriam Weinstein, author of “The Surprising Benefit of Family Meals” writes: "Family supper is important because it gives children reliable access to their parents. It provides anchoring for everyone's day. It emphasizes the importance of the family nonverbally. It reminds the child that the family is there, and that she is part of it." She refers to regular family mealtimes as “something that would improve the quality of your daily life, your children's chances of success in the world, [and] your family's health. . .. Something that is inexpensive, simple to produce, and within the reach of pretty much everyone.” I have to agree! Do you?
If you want to have more family meals in your home – follow these steps:
Make Family Mealtimes Happen:
Take a look at the family schedule
Is there a time that works for everyone? It doesn’t have to be the evening meal.
Are there too many activities around dinnertime?
Can the schedule be pared down?
Discuss the plan and garner commitment from all family members
Make a weekly plan of simple meals and delegate some of the meal preparation jobs… even little ones can set the table.
Create a no-phone, TV or computers at mealtime rule.
Enjoy the meal, the conversation and wait for the miracle!
Weinstein, M. (2005). The surprising power of family meals: How eating together makes us smarter, stronger, healthier, and happier. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press.
The Family Food Project: