Nutrition Articles

The Benefits of Eating Together

The Family Who Eats Together Stays Together

"Come and get it!" It may be dinnertime, but when was the last time your family sat down and enjoyed a mealtogether? With music lessons, ball practice, play rehearsal, and work schedules, it can be tough. Rounding up the troops for an evening meal can be almost impossible! However, research is beginning to show that eating as a family has great benefits for your children and teenagers. Here are 8 more reasons why you should try to sit down together 5-6 times a week, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Reason #1: Communication and Well-Being
Conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, plan, connect, and learn from one another. It’s a chance to share information and news of the day, as well as give extra attention to your children and teens. Family meals foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging. It can be a unifying experience for all.

Reason #2: Model Manners (and more)
Family mealtime is the perfect opportunity to display appropriate table manners, meal etiquette, and social skills. Keep the mood light, relaxed, and loving. Try not to instruct or criticize—lead by example.

Reason # 3: Expand Their World…One Food at a Time
Encourage your children to try new foods, without forcing, coercing, or bribing. Introduce a new food along with some of the stand-by favorites. Remember that it can take 8-10 exposures to a new food before it is accepted, so be patient. Trying a new food is like starting a new hobby. It expands your child’s knowledge, experience, and skill.
  • Include foods from other cultures and countries.
  • Select a new vegetable from a local farmer’s market.
  • Have your child select a new recipe from a cookbook, web site, newspaper, magazine or check out the recipes on SparkPeople.
Reason #4: Nourish
Meals prepared and eaten at home are usually more nutritious and healthy. They contain more fruits, vegetables, and dairy products along with additional nutrients such as fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, and folate. Home cooked meals are usually not fried or highly salted, plus soda and sweetened beverage consumption is usually lower at the dinner table.

Reason #5: Become Self-Sufficient
Children today are missing out on the importance of knowing how to plan and prepare meals. Basic cooking, baking, and food preparation are necessities for being self-sufficient. Involve your family in menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. Preschoolers can tear lettuce, cut bananas, and set the table. Older children can pour milk, peel vegetables, and mix batter. Teenagers can dice, chop, bake, and grill. Working as a team puts the meal on the table faster, as well as makes everyone more responsible and accepting of the outcome. Improved eating habits come with "ownership" of a meal.

Reason #6: Prevent Destructive Behaviors
Research shows that frequent family dinners (five or more a week), are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking, and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers when compared to families that eat together two or fewer times per week. Even as older children’s schedules get more complicated, it is important to make an effort to eat meals together. Scheduling is a must.

Reason #7: Improve Grades
Children do better in school when they eat more meals with their parents and family. Teenagers who eat dinner four or more times per week with their families have higher academic performance compared with teenagers who eat with their families two or fewer times per week.

Reason # 8: Save Money
Meals purchased away from home cost two to four times more than meals prepared at home. At present time the restaurant industry’s share of the total food dollar is more than 46%. Due to scheduling, commitments, and activities, families eat out several times each week.

It is time to bring the "family" back to the dinner table. Sharing dinner together gives everyone a sense of identity. It can help ease day-to-day conflicts, as well as establish traditions and memories that can last a lifetime.

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Member Comments

  • I really like having a family dinner.
  • Thanks for the info.
  • Since I am alone the TV is my meal companion!
    My husband and I enjoy eating our meals together and having a nice conversation.
  • I am very glad that when we were raising our daughter, the dinner table was a must. I see chlldren today in restaurants and I want to cringe and I know it is because they are not learning any etiquette at home. Also the art of conversation (minus cell phones) is learned at the dinner table. The kitchen used to be the heart of the home and I think it should return to that.
  • My husband and I enjoy our meals more when we eat together! Love the article!
  • When my kids were growing up we ate together all the time.
  • I love sitting down together as a family to eat.
  • We eat together as much as possible, easier now that DH and I don't go out to work, specially for breakfasts...
  • I love it when our family is all together and we eat a meal together and get caught up on everything each person has planed and has done. We try to do this at least once a say.
  • Due to school and different schedules, breakfast and lunch are hit and miss. But we always eat at home, and dinner is the one meal that we all eat together. During the week we will watch Jeopardy while we eat, and Fridays we'll watch Wheel of Fortune as well. But there is a lot of conversation as well. When I was growing up, all possible meals were eaten together. When all of us were in high school and beyond, my parents had a rule. As long as we lived under their roof, Monday through Thursday we had to eat dinner with them unless we were working.
  • Eating together is a great way to be a role model.
  • I grew up with family mealtime at the table,especially dinner .It was one of the best, and most important times to me when I was a child .I think the dinnertime meal sitting at the table with all family members is a lost art nowadays for most people,but not in our house!!! I love those important family memories and they are more precious to me ,now that my parents have passed away. So, I have endeavored through work schedules when DH did not have a choice ,but to work 12 hour schedules, to save our family mealtimes at the table and even in the process, show our toddler at the time what tea time is like In England @ 4pm {when we had it anyway} so we could eat dinner with Daddy @ the table @ 7:30 pm !!
    Our child has shown the same appreciation and respect for that dinner time and also sees it as an opportunity to get to eat ,interact , and chat with us,his parents on a regular basis. Maybe that is one of the reasons he does so well in his vocabulary skills on tests!!!
    I've been working late a lot lately, so I haven't been able to hang out with my family as much. I've been trying to figure out a good way to connect with them. I didn't realize that eating out was such a good opportunity to socialize! I'll have to give it a shot. Thanks for sharing! http://www.valent

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.