Education, Wellbeing

How (and why) to make the most of family mealtimes

22 April, 2021

Family making dinner together
Does your family sit down to dinner, each and every night? If not, you might want to start – there are plenty of proven benefits to eating dinner as a family.

Once upon a time, there was no question whether you would sit down for a family dinner every night. It was simply the done thing.

But with our hectic modern schedules and distractions like TVs, iPads and smartphones, it can feel near impossible to get everyone together for a family meal – let alone on a regular basis.

Before we explain how to make the most of your family mealtimes, it’s important that you know exactly why you should. A number of studies have been done on the benefits of eating as a family, and the results might surprise you.

For one thing, it’s understood that eating as a family helps you to eat better – a Harvard study found that families who eat together are twice more likely to eat the recommended amount of fruit and veggies than families who eat separately. Also, it’s believed that children tend to become less picky eaters when they eat regularly with their family, and are less likely to become overweight.

Beyond the nutritional benefits, though, eating together also provides an opportunity for your family to become closer. Children may feel more comfortable sharing parts of their day or even raising any issues they’re facing when they have plenty of opportunities to do so, while parents have more occasions to be good role models when it comes to table manners and healthy eating.

And the benefits don’t end there. A 2015 study by Canadian researchers found that frequent family dinners can prevent issues with eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, violent behaviour and even depression and suicidal thoughts. It also found that young female participants benefited the most from family mealtimes.

So now that you know why you should be eating more as a family, here are our top three tips for how to make it happen.

  1. Establish ‘screen-free time’ around dinnertime. This might mean having everyone put their phones and tablets in a drawer 30 minutes to an hour before dinner time or involving the children in a screen-free activity before dinner. This will help you ensure they’re ready to eat when the food is ready and reduce tears by establishing a routine.
  2. Have the children help you with dinner, whether it’s by planning out your weekly meals together on a Sunday afternoon, getting their input when you go grocery shopping or having them physically help you in the kitchen while you’re cooking. If they’re involved in the process, they’ll be more likely to enjoy it.
  3. Think of ways to make dinner time fun! You could play ‘games’ like ‘Peak and the Pit,’ where every family member says the best and worst part of their day, or invest in some dinner table quiz cards like these ones. It’s all about making dinner time an enjoyable activity that the whole family looks forward to.

Click here to find some yummy meal ideas you can make together as a family!

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