Today’s parent spends copious amounts of time concerned about their child’s well-being, nutritional intake and educational success. Studies have shown there is a simple solution to meeting all these concerns: frequent family meals. With work, school, activities and life in general, we are busier than ever before and finding the time to all gather for a meal is a struggle. A family meal doesn’t need to be the stereotypical sitting at the dining room table. Restaurant, park, patio… as long as you’re all together enjoying a meal, your child will eat better. It turns out that not only do kids actually enjoy eating with their families; science says the health benefits can’t be ignored.
Frequent family meals drastically reduce your child’s chances of “risky behaviors” like smoking, drinking and drug use. Time spent sitting down together as a family increases family bonds and allows the opportunity to share values. Kids have reported that they feel closer to their parents and experience less emotional stress when eating together as a family.
A survey conducted in 2000 found that the 9 to 14-year-olds who ate dinner with their families most frequently consumed more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods. They are also more likely to try new foods and their diets had higher amounts of many key nutrients, like calcium, iron, and fiber. Use the USDA MyPlate as a guide for simple meal planning. Adding milk as a beverage provides 3 of the 4 nutrients that many meals are missing: calcium, potassium and vitamin D.
Students who eat five times or more with their family each week are 40% more likely to make A’s & B’s, excel in standard achievement tests as well as a better vocabulary and overall reading comprehension. Sitting and enjoying a meal together gives parents opportunities to give kudos, encouragement and moral support in their studies.
Also, with the increased healthy and nutritional foods a family table facilitates, your child’s mind will be fueled up and able to tackle a day of school and homework.