Busy schedules and families moving in opposite directions make it hard to have “family dinners.” But, with all the benefits they offer, it’s worth it to come together at the table at least a few times a week.
Research shows that having dinner as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on your child’s development. Family dinners have been shown to lower your risk of obesity, substance abuse, and eating disorders.
Speaking of benefits, here are just a few that will make you want to sit down with your family tonight.
3 Reasons Why Family Mealtimes Are Important
#1 Conversation. Eating dinner together provides the opportunity for great conversation. This time allows parents to teach healthy communication skills without the distractions of smart phones, television, and computers. By encouraging conversation with your child, you teach them how to listen and you provide them with a chance to express their own thoughts and ideas. Conversations expand your child’s vocabulary and reading ability.
#2 Development. The sense of security and togetherness your child feels by having family meals together helps nurture them into healthy, well-rounded adults. Regular family dinners have a positive impact on their values, motivation, and self-esteem. Research shows that children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand and follow the boundaries and expectations their parents set.
To make the most of your family mealtime, turn off television and mobile devices, get together at least four times a week, encourage positive conversation, and spend at least an hour together eating, having conversation, and cleaning up together.
#3 Nutrition. Eating together also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a tradition for your child to carry with them into adulthood. Research shows that family dinners increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Families who eat together also tend to eat fewer fried foods and drink less soda. And the frequency of family meal time is linked to the intake of protein, calcium, and vitamins.
To provide the most nutritional benefits, cook together as a family and include everyone in the preparation, experiment with fun recipes, and remake your favorite old recipes with healthier alternatives. You might also enjoy having “theme” cuisine nights like Italian or Mexican. Know your child’s favorite meals and cook them on a regular basis so they’ll enjoy their time at the table. You can even encourage your child to create their own recipes.
Regular family meals may require a little effort to plan, but the benefits in mental and physical health to are more than worth it.
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