The Importance of Planning Family Meals
Make the family dinner table your favorite gathering place for a healthy you and healthy family!
Cooking from scratch is “the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well-being” ~ Michael Pollan
Nothing brings us closer than sitting down to a family meal together, but gathering everyone together for dinner in the evenings can be challenging.
Modern lives are more complex, and many people make it well into adulthood before really learning how to cook. But a growing body of research indicates that eating together as a family even just several times a week has numerous positive effects on everyone. Read teaching kids to cook early.
What’s more, family meals give us the opportunity to have conversations without the distractions of all our electronic gadgetry – opportunities that are increasingly rare nowadays.
Real, face-to-face conversations are unbeatable for teaching children to listen and giving them the chance to voice their thoughts. And the family dinner table is a much cozier place to share exciting news than social media.
Family Meals Cooked at Home Are Healthier
According to pediatricians at Children’s Hospital St. Louis, eating three or more family meals per week (where at least one parent is present and the meal is prepared at home) results in a significantly lower likelihood of children being overweight. Additionally, the eating habits kids develop as children can last a lifetime, and families that have at least three meals together a week have a 20% lower level of unhealthy food choices.
Eating Together Can Increase Your Children’s Vocabulary
With young children, ordinary dinnertime conversation can make a noticeable positive difference in vocabulary. In fact, this type of conversation increases vocabulary for small children even more than does being read aloud to. Researchers writing for New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development found that young children learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, versus 143 rare words from parents reading storybooks to them. This actually helps kids read earlier and more easily.
Family Meals Can Be Particularly Important for Small Children
As good as family meals can be for young children, they’re perhaps even better for older children. Teen academic performance is positively correlated with having dinner as a family five to seven times per week. Adolescents who regularly had family meals were two times as likely to earn A’s in school as those who had fewer family dinners per week. And, a 2014 study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that adolescents who regularly had family dinners handled cyberbullying better than those who did not.
Done Right, Cleanup Can Be Easier
Sure, it’s more casual to grab something from the kitchen and eat it in front of the television or computer, but that often means you have two rooms to clean instead of one. When you have dinner together as a family, everyone can take the few seconds afterwards to rinse their plates and place them in the dishwasher, or you can rotate through family members for washing and drying dishes. This is far easier than letting dishes accumulate all over the house and then having to cope when you realize you can’t find a clean fork.
It’s Still the Best Setting for Learning Manners
Table manners may not be as strict as they once were, but they’re still important. There’s no better place to teach children manners than around the family dinner table. The common sense etiquette kids learn at the family table carries over into school interactions, and later on, into personal relationships and work interactions. Even if you don’t explicitly teach which fork to use or putting a napkin in your lap, your kids will learn from your example, and these lessons can really stick.
Weekly Family Meal Plans Help All Other Meal Preparations Fall Into Place
Family meals don’t have to be complicated or involve elaborate preparation. Even a “build your own sandwich” night offers family closeness and the opportunity for sharing and conversation. When you plan weekly family meals ahead, you’ll find that much of the rest of your meal preparations fall into place.
Microwavable leftovers can go with you to work, saving you money while offering something healthier than typical lunch fare. Some of the chicken you roasted can be set aside for sandwiches or salads. Best of all, you’ll find it easier to provide your family with the variety of foods that leads to healthier lives.
Don’t know where to start? DinnerDelicious can help, with great ideas and recipes for making the family dinner table your favorite gathering place.
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