Nutrition Articles

The Benefits of Eating Together

The Family Who Eats Together Stays Together

"Come and get it!" It may be dinnertime, but when was the last time your family sat down and enjoyed a mealtogether? With music lessons, ball practice, play rehearsal, and work schedules, it can be tough. Rounding up the troops for an evening meal can be almost impossible! However, research is beginning to show that eating as a family has great benefits for your children and teenagers. Here are 8 more reasons why you should try to sit down together 5-6 times a week, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Reason #1: Communication and Well-Being
Conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, plan, connect, and learn from one another. It’s a chance to share information and news of the day, as well as give extra attention to your children and teens. Family meals foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging. It can be a unifying experience for all.

Reason #2: Model Manners (and more)
Family mealtime is the perfect opportunity to display appropriate table manners, meal etiquette, and social skills. Keep the mood light, relaxed, and loving. Try not to instruct or criticize—lead by example.

Reason # 3: Expand Their World…One Food at a Time
Encourage your children to try new foods, without forcing, coercing, or bribing. Introduce a new food along with some of the stand-by favorites. Remember that it can take 8-10 exposures to a new food before it is accepted, so be patient. Trying a new food is like starting a new hobby. It expands your child’s knowledge, experience, and skill.
  • Include foods from other cultures and countries.
  • Select a new vegetable from a local farmer’s market.
  • Have your child select a new recipe from a cookbook, web site, newspaper, magazine or check out the recipes on SparkPeople.
Reason #4: Nourish
Meals prepared and eaten at home are usually more nutritious and healthy. They contain more fruits, vegetables, and dairy products along with additional nutrients such as fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, and folate. Home cooked meals are usually not fried or highly salted, plus soda and sweetened beverage consumption is usually lower at the dinner table.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Growing up we as a family ate our meals together, I did this with my children and it still continues with my grand children. Thus family get together was a big deal for our family . Since my mom has passed on we have not had many and I do miss them. - 9/4/2015 5:02:07 PM
  • When my kids were young and living at home it was the rare night that we did not eat as a family unit, I miss those days, they are all adult's and I'm a widow lady who eats most of my meals alone, they have moved out of state but when they come to visit I look forward to cooking a big family meal and enjoying the company. - 2/10/2015 10:18:24 AM
  • My partner and I eat dinner together 90% of the time. There are some nights where one or the other of us has activities, but when we are both home, we eat our meals together. I wouldn't have it any other way. :) - 2/2/2015 4:35:53 PM
  • I grew up with a family dinnertime. No matter what no one ate until all were at the table. When I met my husband, his family did not have a table. Their eating habits crept into my routine and set me up for a lifetime of food issues. When my children were born I insisted that we eat at the table or at the counter in the kitchen together. (the counter was set up as a secondary table with stools and plenty of space for all to eat) I think eating at a table with no distractions is very important. I regret ever being exposed to not eating together at a table! - 1/12/2015 12:20:57 PM
  • We always have our dinner together - 7 nights a week. - 10/4/2013 3:18:01 AM
  • I agree totally with this article. My familly eats late many nights so that everyone can eat together. It's very important and it does save money. We need to take our children back from all the other influencing factors such as cell phones, computer, Kindles and other students.

    We need to see if our children are still breathing from time to time. - 10/25/2012 11:03:19 AM
  • Since I started cooking instead of eating out, I insist that my children eat with me at least 5 times per week. Yes, the schedules of my children can be hectic, so I have to be flexible and that is just what I do. Trying new things is a super idea and I am going to keep trying this for all of us! - 8/13/2011 4:22:37 PM
  • When my children were small (they are now adults), eating together at the dining table was a way to each person contributing and sharing information about the days events. Today, it seems that everyone is too busy to relax and to enjoy each other's company. - 8/9/2011 10:48:49 AM
  • But, seriously... my husband and I have learned that eating together at a dinner table (he even lights candles!) is healthier. We eat less, only he occasionally has seconds but he is in good shape. I am satisfied with correct portions if II eat away from the tv or computer and with him. We also have lower grocery bills! - 8/9/2011 9:20:38 AM
  • Hmm, my 34 yr old brother in law is still living in his parent's basement and my mother in law is a very good cook... there may be a dark side to this! - 8/9/2011 9:18:36 AM
  • KARIN1972
    Since starting with Sparkpeople about a month ago this is one area of tremendous improvement. Having a 1 and 2 year old at home, our attention was always on getting them fed and to bed before we worried about what we were going to eat. Oftentimes this resulted in us getting fast food or throwing something together and eating in front of the TV. But now that I am trying to eat healthy, I plan the meals more carefully and make the meals. Not only has this saved us money but the planning ahead has helped to make sure that we all sit down together at dinner. I think even at their young age they appreciate it and we are starting a healthy family habit.

    Thanks Sparkpeople! - 8/31/2010 3:46:48 PM
    I live alone and eating with someone is a proof that you are alive, wanted and connected. Just the idea that you are connected makes up for all the loneliness and an affirmation of one's worth. People are lucky to have family to eat with so please enjoy the meal together.
    - 7/22/2010 10:03:53 PM
  • We generally eat dinner together. There are rare weeknight occasions when we are just too busy or the table is too messy and we eat wherever. I know when my dh was on second shift last summer (the kids were still in school for part of it), it just didn't seem complete unless we were all there. yesterday we ate at outside on the picnic table and it was nice not to have the distractions that the house can sometimes have. The boys love to eat outside, which is great! We usually ate as a family growing up and so did dh's family. - 5/2/2010 7:24:52 AM
  • While I agree with the article in spirit (and practice--we eat together almost every night), I wish the author had given sources for some of the information. I have to wonder about the claims about better grades and decreased likelihood of drug/alcohol use, etc. I don't doubt these things are true, I just question whether one actually causes the other. Or if it is just a correlation that occurs because families who make eating together a priority are the same families who are more likely to have the time and desire to help kids with homework (leading to better grades), nurture self esteem (leading to less likelihood of self-destructive behaviors), etc. - 10/24/2009 9:21:11 PM
  • i live in a household with my husband and another married couple. Stange I know, but in these hard times it makes it easy on all of us. We all share meals and always eat together. It saves us money, eases communication in the household and sets us up for dinners once we part ways and have our own children. We have never had an argument or fight, and I think our untraditional family dinners play a huge part in this! - 9/22/2009 9:50:34 AM

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