Studies show families who eat meals together regularly benefit. Both parents and kids are included in these benefits. Food patterns for the future generation are healthier when families eat together. In other words, eating together today can impact healthy food patterns of tomorrow. University of Minnesota research shows that teens that ate meals together with their family ate more fruits, vegetables, dairy with a good source of calcium, and dark green vegetables. The teens also drank fewer soft drinks and had a better nutrient intake.
Quality time spent together is also increased. The kids in families that eat together are shown to have better vocabulary skills and higher test scores. Studies show these kids fare better physically, emotionally, and intellectually with greater self confidence. An Iowa State University Extension study revealed that families who eat meals together teach kids table manners, family values, basic cooking skills, and a sense of community.
Studies show most families believe eating together to be very important. The surveys show 88 percent of families believe this to be very or extremely important. The top barriers to meals together include conflicting schedules, work schedules, and kids’ activities. This time seems to become harder to find as the kids get older and become teens. Teen drug and alcohol use is connected to number of meals eaten together. Studies show that the more often a teen eats dinner with his or her family the less likely they are to drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs illegally.
In conclusion, the simple act of family meals can do so much to benefit the whole family. With the costs of food rising, cooking, and eating at home as a family certainly can be cost effective, but as stated earlier, the other benefits can really play a huge role in making that family meal a priority.
Source: Ohio State University Extension, Ohioline, Factsheet FLM-FS-4-03.
Author: Liz Smith, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.