In recent years, there has been much talk about the importance of eating together as a family at least once a day. We hear how important it is to do so, but few of us truly understand the tremendous long term impact this simple everyday act has on our families and especially on our children.
When we think about healthy living, most of think of eating healthier foods. But healthy living goes far beyond what we serve on our plates. It may surprise you that simply eating together as a family has many benefits of its own.
Researchers studying addiction patterns among teens have found that teenagers whose families eat dinner together five or more times a week have lower rates of illegal drug use, smoking and drinking rates compared to families who eat together two or less times per week. Further, children and teenagers who eat dinner with family are fourtimes more likely to do better academically.
The family table is the perfect place to try new food. It’s always more fun to try something new together. It’s important to remember not to give up if your kids turn down a new type of food the first time. On average, you need to offer a new food to a child about 8-10 times before it is accepted. One thing that may help is to have your kids help you pick a new food to try from a different cuisine each week.
What we serve at the family table is very important, but what we bring to the family table is priceless. Family dinners are about many other things besides food. Sharing everyday events during the meal are a great way for families to communicate, plan and bond with one another. This is the time of the day where families reconnect and recharge for the next day. The family table is the place where children should feel love, security, warmth, a sense of unity and belonging – also crucial in the development and support of an emotionally strong individual.
Being a single mom, I am always looking for ways to save money and make the most of the time we spend together. Eating out is expensive, some families spend nearly 50% of their food dollars in restaurants. I hope you will agree, the math is simple. Meals prepared at home are easier on the budget and tend to be healthier than restaurant fare. When we prepare meals with our families, we are also better able to control the quality of our food. Cooking with our kids gives us more family time with our children while we model important living skills.
“Easier said than done” you might say, and I agree. Therefore, I would suggest taking small steps. Let’s start by scheduling one special family dinner next week. Try letting the children help plan it. Who’s with me? If you decide to try this, please let us know how it goes, we would love to hear from you.