Benefits of family meals

Sep 2012
Benefits of Family Meals
Family mealtimes provide children with dedicated time they know they will be spending with their parents.

We are often told about the importance of promoting family meal times, but this can be difficult to co-ordinate between after-school activities and work hours. Here are seven benefits of this family tradition which may help reinforce why you insist on gathering round the table in the evenings.

Sense of routine
Eating together at meal times provides children with dedicated time they know they will be spending with their parents and siblings. This helps to establish a sense of routine and can aid with setting expectations for bed times or other essential evening activities.

Meal times allow your family to communicate with fewer distractions, strengthening your family connections. This will help you and your children to connect, plan, learn from one another and understand what is important to each other. Many families claim that meal times are the cornerstone to bringing the family together, creating a sense of warmth and belonging. By giving them your undivided attention during meal times, your child will feel encouraged to tell you how they feel and if they are experiencing any problems.

Manners and social skills
Eating together offers an opportunity to promote table manners and improve your child's social skills. Children often learn by example, so meal times are an ideal occasion to reinforce table etiquette.

Health and nourishment
By providing home cooked meals, you can keep an eye on what your children are consuming, enabling you to offer nutritious meals with measured amounts of each food group.

Improving academic results and preventing destructive behaviour
In her article called 'The Family Who Eats Together Stays Together', Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietician, claims: "Research shows that frequent family dinners (five or more a week), are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking, and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers when compared to families that eat together two or fewer times per week." She also notes that "teenagers who eat dinner four or more times per week with their families have higher academic performance compared with teenagers who eat with their families two or fewer times per week."

Saving money
Home cooked meals can be much more cost effective than eating out as a family. Cooking in larger quantities and freezing the leftovers can be a great way to save money and will mean you have nutritious meals prepared and waiting for you on occasions where you do not have time to cook from scratch.

Passing on life skills
Family meal times afford your children the chance to learn the important life skills of planning and putting together nutritious, balanced meals. This will promote self-sufficiency in preparation for their future.