from Yolanda Evans, MD
Did you know that having family meals together can equal healthier kids?
Sitting as a family at the same table may seem impossible with our busy lives. We are often racing to and from work, school, and other activities. Eating happens when it’s convenient, which means sometimes in the car and often on the go. Believe it or not, taking time to sit and eat as a family can have positive effects on health!
The benefits may seem obvious: sitting down for a few minutes as a family allows us to learn what’s going on in each others’ lives, talk about upcoming events, and time to get to know new goals and successes. Amazingly, it also is associated with better health for children and teens.
Families who have only 3 meals a week together (where at least one parent is present) have children who are more likely to be normal weight (so not overweight or obese). Children and teens who share at least 3 meals a week together are also more likely to eat a healthier variety of food and less likely to have unhealthy eating behaviors (skipping meals, overeating, vomiting after eating in order to lose weight, using diet pills or laxatives, fasting or not eating, or using food substitutions).
Even though our lives are extremely busy, we have 21 opportunities each week to eat together as a family (3 meals a day, 7 days a week). Here are some things parents can do to encourage family meals:
- Plan to eat at least 3 meals together each week. This may be as simple as breakfast on Saturday and Sunday with one dinner on a weekday.
- Ask you kids to help set a menu for the family meals.
- Once the menu for the week is set, take your kids to the grocery store to help pick out the food you have planned to make.
- Give your kids a task for helping with dinner (setting the table, making the salad, or even helping cook the main meal).
- If your entire family helps prepare the meal, they may be more likely to want to sit and eat what you have created together.
The upcoming holidays provide a great opportunity to practice these suggestions!
Hammons AJ, Fiese BH. Is frequency of shared family meals related to nutritional health of children and adolescents? Pediatrics Vol . 127 No. 6 June 1, 2011