The importance of mealtime
There are many benefits to sitting down for a family meal.
Family mealtime is when everyone in the family sits down together to enjoy a meal, which can include breakfast, lunch and dinner. Families who eat together tend to be healthier and happier.
Benefits and tips to why family mealtime is important and ways to make it more enjoyable:
- Building a close relationship: Mealtimes can be the most common time children communicate with parents. Turning off the TV allows the family to connect and make memories together by asking children about their day, school, friends, goals and more. This can also be a valuable lesson for your child in the future.
- More nutritious: Meals eaten at home tend to be healthier than meals eaten out. Higher frequency of family meals tend to have more consumption of fruits and vegetables, calcium and whole grains as well as lower levels of binge eating according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics. This study also showed having at least 1-2 family meals per week significantly reduced odds of overweight or obesity 10 years later in young adulthood compared with never having family meals.
- Portion Sizes: By eating as a family, children can learn correct portion sizes and food groups by teaching them to eat from the five food groups using the MyPlate.
- Cooking skills: By letting the kids help prepare meals, they are more likely to try new foods and makes mealtime more enjoyable for them and make them feel valued and part of the family.
- Social skills: By eating together as a family, children are given an opportunity to improve their social and conversation skills, as well as their table manners. Talking about planning an activity like a family vacation, can allow children to become more social and improve linguistic development.
- New foods: Sitting down to a family meal allows you to offer new food to your children. By letting them choose how much to eat and not forcing them to eat it, kids are more likely to enjoy a new food and a variety of food. Offer the food to them, don’t serve them.
- Meals don’t have to be fancy: Meals do not have to take a lot of time and preparation. Sitting down together to enjoy even a simple meal such as a sandwich can still be enjoyable.
- Stability: By eating with your children, this gives them a sense of security such as a study from The National Council on Substance Abuse and Addiction (CASA) shows that family dinner time brings parents and children together emotionally and can reduce rates of teen smoking, drinking and drug use.
- Saves Money: Eating together by cooking at home is cheaper than spending money to dine out with a family. Restaurants tend to be pricier on meals especially if buying more than one meal. By buying common ingredients that can be used for multiple recipes will save money and will may contribute to less waste by using leftovers.
- Be a good example: By including food from each of the five food groups, children are more likely to eat a variety of healthful foods if they see you doing it first. Children are influenced by their parents and peers food consumption and often mimic a similar consumption of food as they grow up.
Making mealtime a family time can make eating very enjoyable and can have tremendous benefits in overall health. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit: http://www.msue.msu.edu/newsletters.
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