Studies show that eating together improves relationships and makes for healthier, happier families. In this clip from Nourish, pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke encourages us to make time for shared meals at home. How do you make the most of family mealtime?
Why Mealtime Matters
The family meal has undergone dramatic changes over the last century. Today, “50 percent of meals are eaten outside the home, 20 percent in cars,” says Dr. Burke, medical director of the San Francisco Bayview Child Health Center. But there are many good reasons to bring back family meals.
Sharing and connecting over a home-cooked meal offers health benefits for families, especially children. Cooking at home teaches nutrition and ensures that healthy, whole foods wind up on your family’s plates. Having reliable mealtimes helps children steer clear of junk foods and snacking.
Mealtime strengthens family bonds and offers many social benefits, as well. Conversing at the dinner table nourishes communication skills and emotional intelligence in children. According to an annual report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, teens who eat family dinners at least five times a week perform better in school and are less likely to experiment with smoking, drinking, and drugs.
Next: 6 ways to ensure a healthy and enjoyable family meal Share the Table
Family mealtime is a great way to check in with your loved ones over good food, and create memories to last a lifetime. Here are some ways to ensure a healthy, enjoyable family meal:
- Eat real. Save money by avoiding takeout and drive-thrus. Instead, create a healthy, home-cooked menu that everyone can enjoy together. Give children a voice by including them in the meal planning process. Use mealtime as an opportunity to instill and practice healthy eating habits.
- Expand their palates. Studies have shown the children who share dinner with their families eat more fruits and veggies and less junk food. Visit a farmers market with your kids and pick out new, seasonal foods to try together. Introduce new foods at the dinner table.
- Involve the whole family. From shopping and cooking to table setting and cleanup, make sure everyone has a role in the process. Assigning responsibilities engages children and helps them feel more invested in the results. Discover more ideas for cooking together.
- Tune in. Dinner is a time to be present for each other. Turn off the TV, put away cell phones, and tune out any other distractions.
- Relax and connect. In our busy lives, we may have few moments to slow down and enjoy our familyís company. Make dinner your daily opportunity to catch up, share news and stories, and laugh together.
- Celebrate. Honor mealtime as a ritual that is shared with those you love. Whether itís a holiday, birthday, or weeknight dinner, every meal can be an occasion to create traditions around good food and community.
Dr. Burke and author Michael Pollan discuss the evolution and importance of the family meal in Nourish Perspectives.
Discover ways to connect with your kids one meal at a time at Laurie David’s The Family Dinner. Parent Earth offers great food and cooking videos for parents and kids. Foodily is an online recipe network that helps you find healthy recipes.