Don’t let Thanksgiving dinner be the only meal your whole family spends together! Recent research highlights the importance of regular family meals.
We know that parents and teens are busier than ever. Between school, work, sports, college prep, and social activities, our to-do lists never end. On top of this, when families do get a chance to spend time together, texts, tweets, emails, and Instagrams often get in the way. Distraction-free time together is hard to come by.
Distraction-free time together spent eating a home-cooked meal may be even harder, but a new study says family mealtime might have long-term benefits for teens. Recent research suggests that teens who have meals with family may become trimmer adults.
According to one of the authors, “Although we don’t know exactly why having family meals is protective, family meals may provide a combination of activities such as opportunities for healthful eating, connection among family members, creating a supportive environment for emotion regulation and a sense of security that give children the ability to regulate their own eating behaviors in their day-to-day lives.”
Teens don’t need to eat every meal with their families to reap some of these benefits. When compared to teens who never ate meals with family, those who reported eating between one and five meals with family per week had lower rates of overweight and obesity in the 10-year follow up.
Plus, home-cooked meals are typically healthier and less expensive.
But it can be time-consuming and even daunting to plan family dinners. Fortunately, some organizations have made it their mission to help parents get dinner on the table. The Family Dinner Project, a grassroots movement of “food, fun and conversation about things that matter” located outside of Boston, offers family dinner workshops for parents, an online dinner program, and mealtime tips for busy families. They suggest letting teens pick the music while preparing dinner, preparing and freezing meals in advance for busy nights, and creating meals based on favorite books (quidditch stew, anyone?).
Parents, remember that family meals don’t have to be perfect. Dinnertime isn’t just about the food on the table; it’s about the time and opportunity to unwind and reconnect with each other. And, as it turns out, it might help set your teens up for improved health later in life!
Teens, try to think of mealtime as a distraction-free time (and encourage your parents to do the same!). Putting your phone away for a few minutes will allow you to enjoy your food and engage in better conversation.
What brings your family together?
Resources Promoting the Importance of Family Meals
- The Family Dinner Project
- ChooseMyPlate: Make Mealtime Family Time
- KidSpot: How to bring back family meal time
Berge, J. M., Wall, M., Larson, N., Forsyth, A., Bauer, K. W., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2014). Youth dietary intake and weight status: Healthful neighborhood food environments enhance the protective role of supportive family home environments. Elsevier, 26, 69-77.
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