“Food tastes better when you eat it with family”
Dinner time has changed a lot over the last 10 years; with increased work schedules, after school activities and the surge in technology use for all age groups, dinners together as a family have fallen to the wayside. However, this leads to more issues than just feeding the whole family at one time; deteriorating family relationships, unhealthy food choices, fussy eating, obesity and stress to name a few.
Why eat together?
First and foremost - connection. It gives families a chance to be together and bond. It helps young children be safe and secure by providing a structured routine and models from parents and siblings for trying new foods and interacting together (Wardle, J., Herrera, M., Cooke, L. et al., 2003). It can often be a time to re-connect with older children/teenagers who (may) otherwise spend most of their time with friends (Prior, A-L & Limbert, C., 2013).
Also, it lays the pattern for healthier eating choices and better nutrition. Children are less likely to over-eat and tend to consume more fruits and vegetables when eating with family rather than friends. This ensures they are hitting nutritional levels such as consuming enough fiber, calcium and iron (Burgess-Champoux, et al. 2009).
The best news is that it isn’t just children who benefit from meal times together. A 2008 study showed sitting down as a family helped parents to deal with the stresses of their jobs. In addition, cooking together can be a wonderful way to explore new foods and save money (Jacob, et al. 2008).
What you can do?
- If you’re not already eating together regularly, aim to do so just one night a week.
- f dinnertime is too hard to get everyone together, try to have a special family breakfast on the weekends or a family lunch.
- During the week, don’t worry if everyone can make it. Sit with whoever is at home to enjoy a meal.
- Ignore all phones, turn off the TV and ban texting at the table. Perhaps create a box for all devices to live in while the meal is shared.
- Ask each family member to share one good thing and one bad thing that happened during their day.
- Involve your children in the meal preparation. Older kids can take charge of the whole meal, while younger ones can help set the table.
Trudy Smith - Senior Speech Pathologist, Kids Spot
Burgess-Champoux, T. L., Larson, N., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Hannan, P. J., Story, M. (2009). Are Family Meal Patterns Associated with Overall Diet Quality during the Transition from Early to Middle Adolescence? Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior Volume 41, Issue 2, Pages 79-86. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1499404608001942
Jacob, J. I., Sarah Allen, S., Hill, J., Mead, L. M. & Ferris, M. (2008).
Work Interference with Dinnertime as a Mediator and Moderator Between Work Hours and Work and Family Outcomes. American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077727X08316025
Prior, A.-L., & Limbert, C. (2013). Adolescents’ perceptions and experiences of family meals. Journal of Child Health Care, 17(4), 354–365. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367493512462261
Wardle, J., Herrera, M., Cooke, L. et al. Modifying children's food preferences: the effects of exposure and reward on acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, 341–348 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601541