The health benefits of eating as a family

Author: Nicole Saliba, Accredited Practising Dietitian   Date Posted:20 June 2020 

As life has become busier and busier, more and more families are spending less time eating together. With parents or carers often working longer hours or commuting and kids participating in so many out of school activities and sports, family meals have become a thing of the past. While our increasingly busy lifestyles might make it harder to find time, research shows that eating together has numerous benefits, even if it's only three times a week. Here are some reasons to commit to eating together as a family or household more frequently. 

 

1/ Kids who eat with their parents have better quality diets

Research shows that children who eat with their parents tend to eat more nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, and less processed snack foods like soft-drink and deep fried foods, and that this is often carried into adolescence and adulthood. Don’t stress if every meal cannot be consumed as a family unit. Even coming together for a meal three times a week can help. 

 

2/ Eating together fosters connection

People have never been more connected via technology whether its facebook, instagram or phone. However, less often are we getting face-to-face, emotional and meaningful connections which is likely having a detrimental impact on people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Human’s thrive when we have a sense of community, something which is seen in the Blue Zones which have the highest proportion of centenarians in the world. Food is more than just nutrition, it brings people together. Research shows that social eating may improve self-esteem and strengthen relationships with others. 

 

3/ Eating together is important for emotional and mental health

The family dinner table is a place where kids can converse and interact with parents and share what is happening in their lives. Family meals have been shown to strengthen relationships between family members, improve mental health outcomes in children including lower rates of depression, boost vocabulary and positively impact academic performance. Studies show that time spent with families at meals is more related to the psychological and academic success of adolescents than time spent in school, studying, church, playing sports, or doing art activities. One study showed that teens who have regular meals with a parent were better adjusted emotionally and socially, had better grades and went further in school. They also had lower rates of alcohol use, drug use, early sexual behavior and suicide risk.

 

4/ Family meals help reduce fussy eating behaviours 

Family meals help adults and children learn to accept and like a variety of different foods, teach children to be intuitive eaters and understand when they are hungry and when they are full and help teach children that food is something to be shared and enjoyed. Making mealtimes happy, stress-free and relaxed occasions free from technology also helps with fussy eating. Eating with the rest of the family and having parents role model healthy eating can encourage picky eaters to try new foods. 

 

If you’re time poor and wanting to make a bigger commitment to eating as a family check out Activate Foods new range of family meals. 

 

 

More information

Eatsense

https://eatsense.com.au

Activate Foods

https://www.activatefoods.com.au/family

Shop 2 / 222 The Entrance Rd, Erina NSW 2250

 

References

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  1. Snow CE, Beals DE. Mealtime talk that supports literacy development. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development. 2006: 2006: 11

  2. Sen B. The relationship between frequency of family dinner and adolescent problem behaviors after adjusting for other family characteristics. Journal of Adolescence. 2010; 33: 187-196

  3. Eisenberg ME, Olson RE, Neumark-Sztainer D et al. Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-being Among Adolescents. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2004;158(8):792-796

  4.  Videon TM, Manning CK. Influences on adolescent eating patterns: the importance of family meals. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2003;32:365-73.

  5.  Gillman MW, Rifas-Shiman SL, Frazier AL, et al. Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of Family Medicine. 2000;9:235-240.

  6. Eisenberg ME, Olson RE, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Bearinger LH. Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-being Among Adolescents. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2004;158:792-6.

  7. Hofferth SL. How American children spend their time. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 2001;63(295-308). 5. Council of Economic Advisers to the President (CEAC) . Teens and Their Parents in the 21st Century: an Examination of Trends in Teen Behavior and the Role of Parental Involvement. 2000.


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