Why make time for eating together?
Making family dinners a priority is worth it thanks to these benefits.
It may seem that it's nearly impossible to get everyone in the family to sit down at the dinner table together these days. Between work, school and activities, busy schedules increasingly make it difficult to have dinner as a family. But even if it's not that easy to get everyone at the same table at the same time, the benefits of eating together make it worth prioritizing family dinners.
Children who eat with their family at least 5 times a week may reap these benefits, according to the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University:
- Reduced risk of weight problems and poor eating habits
- Lower chance of smoking, drinking or using drugs
- Less likely to get depressed or develop an eating disorder
- More likely to report having high-quality relationships with parents
- Tend to perform better academically
When it comes to your children's diet, a number of studies have found plenty of reasons to get everyone to sit down for dinner together as often as possible. This includes:
- Better nutrition. One survey found that kids ages 9-14 who ate with their families most frequently consumed higher amounts of important nutrients, like calcium, iron and fiber. They also ate more fruits and vegetables.
- Portion control. The super-sized portions offered at restaurants promote increased calorie intake. The average restaurant meal has 60% more calories than a meal made at home and studies show that when more food is in front of us, it's more likely we'll eat more. Eating at home allows parents to control portions.
- More variety. Eating together provides more opportunity for parents to expose kids to new foods.
So the next time you're tempted to head to the drive-thru on the way to one activity or another, think about why it may be time to move family dinners higher up on your list of priorities.