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What are the Benefits to Having Family Meals?

Stews can be budget-friendly and the whole family can participate in preparing it.
Research shows that people tend to eat more vegetables and healthy foods at family meals.
There are numerous benefits to having family meals.
Family meals allow for greater communication.
Eating at home is generally more healthy and less expensive than eating out.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2014
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Many people are beginning to get the message that eating family meals together confers many benefits to all members of the family. Some of these are financial, while others affect the emotional and physical health of a family. Studies regarding the benefits of family meals are impressive, and should be noted.

From a financial standpoint, family meals make sense when you cook at home. Preparing meals at home is a much less expensive alternative to even the cheapest fast food. Though it’s certainly okay to cheat with the occasional pizza for family meals, home-prepared meals are likely to save you money. Dining out, on the other hand, can quite quickly double or triple your monthly food budget.

From the standpoint of physical health, researchers now also know that family meals tend to mean people eat more fruits and vegetables and lower the risk of childhood and parental obesity. If you do order that pizza, add a homemade salad. Another finding of studies on family meals shows that slowing down a meal is beneficial for weight control. Meals that are eaten more slowly tend to help people exert better portion control. People who watch television or read while they eat tend to consume more calories, simply because they are not paying attention to how much they are eating.

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Families should attempt to make mealtimes relaxing, with only mild correction offered to kids who need help with table manners. When a family can simply eat together, with no television and no phones answered, children are more likely to feel that communication with parents is possible. This promotes the greater possibility that children will come to you when they have significant problems.

Further, studies on frequency of family meals show that a high number of family meals each week, seven or more, has an inverse relationship to drug addiction, alcohol and tobacco use, risk of suicide and depression. In a 2004 study published in the Archives of Pediatric Medicine, all these factors decreased as numbers of family meals increased. Adolescents, who frequently want nothing to do with parents during teenagerdom, were significantly benefited by family meals, and the more, the better.

Families who eat together tend to exhibit less family stress and tension, with fewer undesirable behaviors in children. When a child in the house suffers from ADD or ADHD, or any number of medical conditions, family meals can be especially helpful in promoting better behavior, stability and in improving a child's health through appropriate nutrition.

For many parents, one of the most beneficial aspects of family meals is that they correspond directly with higher grades. This makes sense for a number of reasons. Children get to talk about their day, and parents get to express interest in a child’s ideas and school life. Children feel heard by parents, leading to fewer behavioral problems. The pesky TV, which is linked to lower grades, is off for at least a brief time during a family meal.

Though family meals will not cure all conditions, they can certainly improve a family. Schedules may be challenging, and if you are just instituting family meals, start small. Meals don’t have to be elaborate affairs, and you may have many willing hands that can help with the cooking. The benefits of a little extra work and preparation are obvious, and proven through a variety of studies. Thus promoting family meals at home may be worth a little extra effort.

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bythewell
Post 3

@browncoat - Everyone should try and fit what time they can in with their families. But there's nothing wrong with trying to make a commitment to have at least one regular meal with the TV off per week. It's nice to bond over anything, but I've found a lot of the time people don't seem to talk much when there is something on the box. They just watch whatever happens to be on.

I also think meals are a good way of getting your kids involved in the family. If they are setting the table every night, they feel like they have a purpose. If they occasionally cook a meal that can be awesome too and means that they will be able to survive when they leave the nest as well.

browncoat
Post 2

@clintflint - The only meal I used to have with my dad was lunch on a weekend, and we would almost always end up watching Star Trek, because it was his favorite and that was when they showed the re-runs. And it was pretty cool. We usually ended up having great discussions in the ad breaks and it made me feel really close to him, which was rare because he was usually away during the week.

So I really am a fan of doing whatever works for the particular family. They aren't all going to be able to manage a full sit down meal every day and there's no reason anyone should feel guilty about that.

clintflint
Post 1

One thing to think about when you have family meals with your children is the example that you're setting for them. I don't mean that meals should be a stressful time or anything, but if you sit there with the TV on and only ever eat unhealthy food, you are setting them up to create bad habits that might haunt them later on in life.

Even if you only manage to sit and pay attention to each other for twenty minutes, that's still better than nothing. And if you can manage to get some vegetables or salads into each meal, that's a good thing as well.

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