When I was growing up my family almost always ate together at the dinner table. We’re Basque, and like many immigrant families from old-world Europe, my ancestors brought a profound love of cooking and eating. A couple generations later food continues to be one of life’s simple joys for our family and one that brings us together.
That’s why I think it’s so unfortunate that so many families today don’t take time to eat together. Not only is it a fundamental joy, but it also has tons of benefits for children. Here are five reasons why your family should eat dinner together as often as possible:
It makes you and your family healthier
Family meals tend to include much more fruits and vegetables, and much less soda and fried foods, than meals eaten outside of the home. As a result, studies show that children who eat more often with their families are much less likely to be overweight than those that don’t. As an added benefit, the same goes for the rest of the family; if Mom and Dad are trying to trim their tummies, they’ll also benefit from more home-cooked meals.
It makes your kids smarter
Research shows that kids who eat most often with their parents are 40% more likely to get A’s and B’s than those that don’t. In addition, such children tend to learn how to read earlier and show more motivation in school. It’s nothing magical; family conversations are simply the easiest way for young ones to pick up on vocabulary and practice effective communication. To make the most of your family meals, turn off the TV and talk! It’ll not only bring your family closer, but stimulate your children intellectually.
It’ll keep your kids away from drugs
A report from the Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse says that children who eat at least five meals a week at home with the family are far less likely to experiment with drugs. There are lots of explanations: kids who spend time at the dinner table aren’t spending time unsupervised outside of the home. Parents who eat with their children tend to be more involved in general. Children who spend more time with the family have a clearer sense of expectations and good citizenship. No matter what the reason why, simply eating together can help keep your kids out of trouble.
It makes kids feel more supported
In a survey given to children living at home, kids were asked if they felt that their parents were proud of them. Those that ate the majority of their meals at home were far more likely to answer yes. This spawned a whole list of side benefits, like lower incidences of behavioral issues at school and fewer eating disorders.
It’s what your kids really want
Some parents struggle to get their kids to open up and engage in family meals, especially if they’re feeding teenagers. Studies actually give some surprising insights into how your kids look at family dinners though. 71% of teenagers say that connecting with family members is the best part of dinnertime, and the majority of teens who eat three or fewer meals a week with their families wish they did so more often. Even if your teen seems resistant to meal time, be persistent and you just might be pleasantly surprised.
For many parents, hectic lifestyles, conflicting schedules, and picky tastebuds make it difficult to bring the family together for meals around the dinner table. As this list shows though, it’s totally worth it. Commit to adding one more family meal a week and go from there. You’ll be glad you did!
This is a guest post: Garin Etcheberry is a foodie, entrepreneur, and travel junkie from Portland, Oregon. He runs UncreativeChef where he helps families share the joy of eating through a unique grocery/recipe delivery service. Check it out at UncreativeChef.com.