The other day at my internship, I had the pleasure of shadowing a very passionate Chef and Food Service Supervisor. We spent the better part of the day talking about everything from eating real food to our love of local food to the importance of teaching children and teens how to cook.
Somewhere in our very length conversation, we got on the topic of the benefits of family dinners. I fondly reminisced about how growing up, my family always ate dinner together. My parents both worked full time jobs and didn’t get home until 5 or 6 pm on most nights, but since my dad usually spent his Sundays preparing food, they were always able to have a homemade dinner on the table for us.
Eating dinner as a family may seem like just another part of the day for some families (or an unattainable ideal for others), but it’s more than just that. It actually has tons of benefits for children and teens.
The benefits of family dinners:
- Healthier diets, including more fruits and vegetables, less saturated and trans fat, and less fried foods and soda (1)
- Higher ratings of emotional well being, positive social behaviour, and life satisfaction (2)
- Better communication between teens and parents (2)
- Lower participation in high risk behaviours, such as substance abuse and violence (3)
- Better vocabularies and reading skills due to mealtime conversations (4)
- Increased family closeness and sense of belonging (4)
- Decreased disordered eating in adolescent girls (4)
- Possible decreased risk of overweight and obesity (4)
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
I may be well past my years of vocabulary development and formation of healthy eating habits, but I think even for adults, eating in a social setting is still important. It’s such a good way to relax, engage in good conversation, and foster a sense of closeness with those at your table.
But I’ll admit these days I’m pretty guilty of eating in front of the computer for most of my meals. It’s convenient and gives me a chance to catch up on blogs and emails while I eat, which is a big time saver for me. I started this habit when I was living on my own in university and had no one to share meals with. But now that I’m back at home with my parents for the year, I have a lot more opportunity to eat with them and I want to try to make this happen. This won’t be a reality every day, but maybe a few days of the week. After all, food is meant to be shared, right?
Who do you eat dinner with? Or do you tend to eat alone like me?
Did you grow up eating dinner as a family every night?
1. Gillman MW et al. Archives of Family Medicine. 2000.
2. Elgar FJ, Craig W, Trites SJ. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2013.
3. Fulkerson JA et al. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2006.
4. Fruh SM et al. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2011.