Being in the midst of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, has been nothing less than stressful for children and parents alike. However, there has been one positive…families are eating together. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, parents are sharing more meals with children ages 17-and-under. Want to spend more family time at the table? Well, below are five reasons why you should do meals as a family.
“One of the strongest things that we have to help counter the psychosocial challenges of the pandemic, and of life in general, is strong relationships,” Dr. Dipesh Navsaria told Good Morning America in a recent interview. “Strong, supportive, nurturing relationships are really the cornerstone of what we look at when we wonder, even amidst of adversity of whatever type, what children’s long-term life course looks like.”
He continued, “So when I look at data like this and I see that families are spending time with one another connecting … it tells us that families are reacting and responding to the pandemic in exactly the ways that the evidence backs up, which is to strengthen their bonds and their relationships with one another.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, shared meals between children and parents increased from 56% in 2018 to 63% in 2020. However, data did not only include meals. Additionally, researchers found that sixty-nine percent of parents reported reading to young children five or more times per week in 2020, compared with 65% in 2018, and 64% in 2019.
1. Your kids will make healthier food choices.
Eating meals together as a family cuts down on the opportunity to eat unhealthy foods. Together, families usually consume healthier foods such as more fruits and vegetables.
2. Kids are more likely to be at a healthy weight.
According to research published in the journal Pediatrics, kids who share 3 or more family meals a week are more likely to be in a “normal” weight range.
3. Children are less likely to develop an eating disorder.
“Shared family meals are beneficial to the long-term health of adolescents, including help them be less likely to develop some type of disordered eating” says Holley Grainger, MS, RD, of Cleverful Living with Holley. This is in comparison to children who only ate a few family meals each week with their families.
4. Teens have lower rates of alcohol and drug usage.
Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teens who ate a family meal infrequently, (for example, anything under 3 meals a week), were more likely to abuse prescription drugs (by 3.5 times), as well as use illegal drugs, marijuana (by 3 times), alcohol (1.5 times likelier), and tobacco (more than 2.5 times). Family dinners are really good for teens even if they pretend that they are not, don’t want to interact, know they are really enjoying mealtime with you too.
5. You are creating life-long memories.
“Encouraging families to come to the dinner table more often and make it through dinner happily sets families up for a lifetime of joyful mealtime memories,” explains Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, to eatingwell.com. “[Try to keep the recipes you make fun and familiar so even the pickiest eaters are more willing to take that very first bite. Add to the memories by making] mealtime interactive so kids of all ages can roll up their sleeves, don their aprons, and assist with the meal prep and cooking.”