Does your family regularly eat together? December 3 (Dine-In Day) is a good time to start or make it a habit to share a meal together as a family. Sharing a meal can
happen at any time during the day, breakfast, lunch or
dinner. Try to make it a healthy meal by following My Plate. You don’t have to prepare all or any of the food for the meal, it could be take-out food or even eating at a restaurant. The most important part is sitting down together at the table. Turn off television, phones, screens or other distractions and talk together.
Eating together as a family has been shown to provide benefits to your child in recent research by Musick and Meier. These benefits are just from eating healthy meals together:
- 35% are less likely to develop eating disorders
- 24% are more likely to eat healthy
- 12% are less likely to become overweight
- The family will feel the benefits of closeness and comfort which provides stability.
- Other researchers found children are less likely to develop depression symptoms and have less delinquency.
Past research showed additional benefits but didn’t account for other family factors. The following benefits will continue to develop in many children but can not be associated due only to family meals:
- Children are more likely to have better mental health and avoid substance use and delinquency.
- Children have greater academic achievement.
- Children show improved psychological well-being.
- The family has more positive interactions.
Here are some recommendations of getting started having family meals or keeping it a priority:
- Choose a meal or different set of meals you will share together as a family.
- Set a goal of sharing a family meal at least three times a week.
- Realize your family will gain closeness and comfort as they eat meals together. This can provide some stability for your children, especially during times of turmoil.
- Make sure the time is quality time by turning off television, phones, screens and other distractions. Ask your children questions and talk together. Make it a happy time together, no criticism or complaining.
Commit to participating in “Dine In” Day by clicking on this link http://www.aafcs.org/FCSday/index.html and signing up. to participate. Take a picture of your family eating a healthy meal together and post on their Facebook page, Twitter, and/or Instagram using #FCSday and #healthyfamselfie. Share your pictures with me on Twitter at #93brinkman and post on our Live Healthy Live Well Facebook page.
Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Fayette County
Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County
American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, (2016). “ Dine-In” With Us! Available at http://www.aafcs.org/FCSday/index.html
Cook, E. and Dunifon, R. (2016). Do Family Meals Really Make a Difference? Cornell University. Available at http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/upload/Family-Mealtimes-2.pdf
USDA, Choose My Plate, (2016). Start with Small Changes, Available at https://www.choosemyplate.gov/start-small-changes