Article at a Glance
• Family meals can help improve your children’s diet, reduce risky behaviors like drinking and taking drugs, and decrease the chances that your teens will use extreme weight control measures.
• Planning ahead and keeping things fun can help make eating together a reality for your family.
Top Three Reasons To Make Family Dinners a Priority
Serving a well-balanced meal increases the likelihood that your children will eat healthy foods. The frequency of family meals has been tied to increased intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods, and decreased soft drink consumption.
Reduces Risky Behaviors
Eating together as a family decreases the chance that adolescents will engage in risky behavior like smoking, drinking, marijuana use, getting into fights, and early initiation of sexual activity.
Encourages Healthy Eating
Having frequent and positive mealtimes together as a family significantly reduces the chance that adolescents will engage in extreme weight control measures such as self-induced vomiting and use of laxatives, diet pills or diuretics. One study showed that girls who ate three-to-four family meals a week were half as likely to engage in extreme weight control behaviors, and girls who ate five or more family meals were at about one-third the risk.
Top Three Ways to Make it Happen
Sit down and take inventory of the things that are preventing your family from eating together and then figure out ways to resolve them. Too many different schedules? Think of ways to reduce time commitments. No time to make dinner? Consider prepping and freezing things beforehand.
Set the Stage
Get your kids involved even before the meal begins by enlisting their help. Young children can help set the table or toss the salad. Older children can help more with preparing the food. Keep the mood playful and be generous with compliments. Your attitude can be contagious.
Use mealtime as a chance to connect and enjoy everybody’s company. Set aside your to-do list and just focus on the family. Use the time to teach good table manners, but try to keep discipline and tension to a minimum. You can keep the conversation going by telling your kids about your day and asking about theirs. If you need an icebreaker, you can ask “what if” questions or ask everybody to share the best and worst part of his or her day.
If things don’t go smoothly, don’t get frustrated. Most family dinners aren’t going to be picture perfect and you may not see the benefits right away, but don’t worry. The accumulated effort you make day after day to bring your family together will make a significant impact.
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