5 Reasons to Make Time for Family Dinners

eATING_TOGETHER

Today, between play dates, soccer practice, piano recitals, tutors and the rainstorm of other scheduling conflicts, family dinners start to sound like a prehistoric activity. In the rush of everyday, 21st century life, we quickly find ourselves handing our kids store-bought breakfast bars over the backseat of the car. We eat 100-calorie packs at our desks in lieu of lunch. And we pick up take-out meals on our way home from work.

Despite the luxury of these modern innovations, the grandeur of dinner with your family is even greater, bringing about far-more impactful and timeless benefits. Life is busy, but it’s the moments we spend with others that make it worth living. Make time to share mealtimes with your family at least a few times per week. Here are 5 dinnertime merits to drive extra inspiration for when getting the whole crew together feels nearly impossible.

1. Veggie love

A recent survey found that the 9 to 14 year-olds who frequently ate dinner with their families consumed higher overall amounts of fruits and vegetables and smaller amounts of soda and fried foods, as compared to those who didn’t have family mealtimes. The obvious conclusion here is that family meals allow parents to monitor what their kids are eating. But aside from what’s served on the plate, the experiences also allow for both “discussions of nutrition and provision of healthful foods,” says Matthew W. Gillman, MD, the survey’s lead researcher and the director of the Obesity Prevention Program at the Harvard Medical School. Generating enthusiasm and awareness together around healthy eating can create beneficial habits that can be carried beyond the family table.

2. Portion control

Eating out can be convenient but it comes at a price, one that extends beyond just our wallets. The portion sizes at many restaurants seem to be on a never-ending growth spurt. In comparison to a homemade meal, the average restaurant meal has 60% more calories, and generally significantly higher fat content too. Studies show that when we are presented with more food, we are naturally prone to consume larger amounts, as opposed to stopping when we’re full. Ultimately, this leads to expanded waistlines. It’s easier to monitor portion control when plating your own meal, allowing you not to be tempted by over-sized mounds of fries and potato chips.

3. Picky-eater remedy

A family meal is the perfect opportunity for parents to expose children to different foods and expand their palette. Repeated exposure to new foods, when done without threats and bribes, teaches kids to enjoy new foods, even if they don’t like them at first. It’s also a time where parents can set by example. While you may not be able to convince your kids to eat, let’s say, a plateful of broccoli at first, if they see you eating one on a regular basis, they are more likely to eventually move beyond their comfort zone.

4. Improved childhood well-being

“If a child eats with his or her parents on a regular basis, problems will be identified earlier on,” states Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, who has studied the impact of family meal patterns on adolescents.

Studies have shown that kids who frequently eat with their families are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, or develop an eating disorder.  The dinner table provides a great platform to discuss problems, concerns, and day-to-day feelings.

5. Better food, better report card

According to the CASA report, of teens who eat with their family fewer than three times a week, 20% get C’s or lower on their report cards, versus only 9% of teens that eat frequently with their families. Family meals give children an opportunity to have conversations with adults so they can naturely build a wider vocabulary. These conversations also make time for discussing school-related topics, and natural inquiries about the world.

Trish Ryan is the founder of Time for Dinner, a service to help simplify the meal planning process and enjoy healthy meals with your family.

Time for Dinner members are provided recipes for five simple, healthy meals including side dishes each week. Meal plans are created to be efficient and eliminate waste. Ingredients are maximized to create balanced dinners that play off each other. Members are also provided with an organized shopping list, cost estimates to help keep you on budget, a list of pantry items you will need, and guides to meal preparation. Time for Dinner is a great tool to help you avoid pitfalls and stay on track with healthy eating.

As a LifeVest Health reader, enjoy a special rate ($14 off an annual membership). To join visit: http://timefordinnerplanning.com/get-started/annual-offer/.

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