From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension


Healthy Habits: Let's Eat Together

Posted , updated Jun 10, 2005.

Healthy Habits: Let's Eat Together

Children benefit emotionally and physically from eating meals together as a family. A large national study of American teenagers found a strong link between regular family meals, academic success and positive psychological adjustment. In addition, rates of alcohol use, drug use, early sexual behavior, and suicidal risks are lower when families eat meals together. When parents and children eat together, children eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods.

Many positive things can happen during a family meal. Here are some examples.

  • Sharing family stories.
  • Supporting one another.
  • Sharing family values and expectations.
  • Problem solving.

Today’s family life is often too busy for some families to make time to sit down together at mealtime. Families that work different shifts may find it more challenging to find time to eat together. Here are some tips to help you find time to share a meal.

  • Set a regular family mealtime. This will give your child a better chance to eat a variety of foods. If dinner doesn’t work for your family, try making breakfast the family meal. If it’s impossible to eat together everyday, set aside specific days for family meals.
  • Make preparation simple and quick. Simple meals can taste as good as meals that take longer to prepare. This also gives you more time to spend together as a family.
  • Show that family meals are important. Turn off the TV and don’t answer the phone while you are eating.
  • Eat around a table. It is easier to talk and listen when you are facing each other.
  • Enjoy meal talk. Make easy conversation—don’t nag or complain. Allow everyone a chance to talk.
  • Keep mealtime short. A child needs enough time to eat, but sitting patiently for a long time is too much to expect. If kids get fussy, your family meal won’t be fun.

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