After-school activities, late workdays, long commutes -- it's no wonder few families eat dinner together. Yet studies show that the family dinner hour is an important part of healthy living.
But more and more parents are realizing the importance of shared family time at the dinner table. Often, this is the only time when all family members are all together in one place.
When families dine together, they tend to eat more vegetables and fruits -- and fewer fried foods, soda, and foods with trans fats, research shows. When younger kids frequently eat dinner with their families, they are less likely to be overweight than other children. That tends to change in the teenage years, when they're less likely to eat at home.
Although family dinners are viewed by some people as another burdensome chore at the end of a tiring day, more American families realize that the benefits of sharing time at day's end cannot be measured by calories alone. These science-based reasons are proof that family dinners are important.
1. FAMILY DINNERS MEAN BETTER FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
Eating meals together has the potential to strengthen family bonds as it provides a daily time for the whole family to be together. For younger children, routine family meals can provide a sense of security and a feeling of belonging in the family. Older children and teenagers, too, prefer eating together as a family.
2. FAMILY MEALS LEAD TO HEALTHIER FOOD CHOICES
Eating family dinners is associated with healthy dietary food patterns. A 2000 survey found that the nine to 14-year-olds who ate dinner with their families most frequently consumed more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods.
3. EATING AS A FAMILY LEADS TO BETTER GRADES
Studies have proven that there’s a significant link between family dinners and academic performance. A report by CASA found that teens who have between five and seven family dinners per week were twice as likely to report receiving mostly A's and B's in school.
4. FAMILY DINNERS ARE A CHANCE TO EXPLORE NEW FOODS
Family meals have proven to be perfect opportunities for parents to expose children to different foods and expand their tastes. This is one of our main goals at Smart Snackz, by the way.
5. FAMILY DINNERS LEAD TO GREATER HAPPINESS
Research examining 5,000 teenagers has shown that when children eat with their parents regularly, they are more likely to be emotionally strong and have better mental health.
6. FAMILY DINNERS EQUAL HEALTHY KIDS
When families eat together, young children are less likely to be overweight or obese because these children are eat regular, nutritious, home cooked meals, and also help in making or serving those meals.
7. FAMILY DINNERS RELIEVE STRESS
If you have a demanding job, finding time to eat with your family may actually leave you feeling less stressed. This is another main goal of Smart Snackz, supporting busy parents with ready to eat, home-style, healthy and tasty family dinners.
Our successful lunchboxes for children (and some parents too!) help them to develop healthy eating habits, even if at the beginning it seemed they wouldn't eat much of any of them, and those parents who held strong are seeing great results. But many of our busy customers where asking to help them after school, that is why we launched Family Dinners.
TIPS FOR ORGANIZING FAMILY DINNERS
Don't let this mission feel daunting! The goal is to get everyone to the dinner table and to spend quality time together. Here are tips on pulling it off:
- Set a goal. Three times a week, perhaps? Build from there.
- Keep it simple. Family meals don't have to be elaborate.
- Be prepared. Keep healthy meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and veggies.
- Keep healthy 'appetizers' on hand. Stock the kitchen with fresh fruits, nuts, and low-fat cheese -- stuff the kids can snack on after school, instead of chips.
- Get the family involved. Let kids help set the table.
- Avoid portion distortion. Keep serving sizes under control, whether you're at home or eating out.
- Make it enjoyable. Leave the serious discussions for another time. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort, and support.
- Set the mood. Play soothing music. Put flowers on the table. Light a candle. Create a relaxing environment.
Here's another hint -- no TV allowed, no phones answered! This is time for listening to each other, sharing the day's stories, and nurturing the family connection.
Smart Snackz Family
*(Scientific facts from Goodnet and WebMed)