Family Dinners: Important for Keeping Your Family Healthy

by: Angela Hermes, RD

Family DinnersFamily dinner time provides an excellent occasion for family members to regroup at the end of a long day. This is a time when parents and children can discuss their day along with any problems or success stories. In this ever changing world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time to spend together as a family. Traditionally, meal times have been social times for family and friends. As the world gets busier, some of us are forgetting how important and fundamental sharing a meal with our children can be. Researchers are finding many reasons for families to make an effort to sit down together.

Better Nutrition for Kids

There has been a lot of research done lately that focuses on family dinners. Having regular dinners together as a family can build a foundation for healthful eating and other beneficial behaviors. The reason for this may be that families who have dinner together tend to eat healthier meals, so their children benefit from being in the habit of eating well on a regular basis. Families who sit down and eat together are also more likely to discuss healthful food and eating choices.

More Vitamins and Minerals

Two studies found that the more often children ate dinner with their families, the more likely they were to consume essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, and the B vitamins. Children who eat family dinner also tend to consume less soda and sugar-laden foods. In addition to this, several studies suggest that children who participate in family dinners have a higher overall intake of fruits and vegetables than children who eat away from their family.

Less Risky Behavior

Children who participate in regular family dinners are more likely to benefit from healthy developmental resources such as family support, peer influence, and expectations. They are also less likely to participate in risky behavior. Teens that eat dinner with their parents on a regular basis are at a lower risk for substance abuse than their peers who do not often eat dinner with their families. This may be a result of families taking the time to discuss their values over dinner.

Children Learn Valuable Kitchen Skills

Creating family dinners together in the kitchen gives kids the opportunity to learn indispensable food preparation skills that will last them a lifetime. Children who enter adulthood with kitchen expertise already in place may be more likely to carry healthy eating habits into adulthood. Assign age appropriate tasks to your children when preparing meals. Younger children can wash fruits and vegetables and measure ingredients, while older kids can chop veggies or run the food processor. Not only does this teach kids how to work in the kitchen, it creates even more family bonding time.

In general, eating together as a family on a regular basis is associated with more healthful eating, as well as an increase in healthy behaviors and a decrease in risky behaviors. Family meals can make family interaction possible and increase communication between parents and their kids. It can also help to create a sense of family unity.

In this fast-paced world, it can be difficult to find the time to eat together as a family. However, it is definitely worth the effort. Even adding one more family dinner night to your week can bring great benefits to you and your family.

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Fulkerson JA, Story M, Mellin A, Leffert N, Neumark-Sztainer D, French SA. Family dinner meal frequency and adolescent development: Relationships with developmental assets and high-risk behaviors. J Adolesc Health. 2006; 39:337–345.

Fitzpatrick E, Edmunds LS, Dennison BA. Positive effects of family dinner are undone by television viewing. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007; 107:666–671.

Rokkett, H. Family Dinner: more than just a meal. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007; 107: 1498-1501. Story, Mary. "Family Meals- Are they important?" Family Meals. April 2004. American Dietetic Association. 28 Mar 2009

These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.  The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.


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