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.
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.