Nutrition Articles

The Benefits of Eating Together

The Family Who Eats Together Stays Together

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"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

  • 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
  • LEONE4MM
    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
  • i have to admit, i didn't make eating at the dinner table a general rule. We as a family ate where ever we felt like sitting at the moment. But now i see it as a way to find out how my kids are doing and how their days go. Its a learning exsperience for everyone so now i make sure we atleast eat as a family 5 nights a week. It has been very satisfying and we are growing as a family. - 7/27/2009 3:49:18 PM
  • As a single mom dinner time has always been around a table for my son and I. That's the way I was brought up and I enjoyed hearing stories from my parents work and things that happened to them during the day. My son (now 13) and I talk about school, upcoming things going on with us, any issues that we need to discuss.

    Now that I am recently married, my husband and I are both in agreement to always have dinner around the table. It's our family time everyday. - 7/15/2009 7:55:19 AM
  • I hated that I always had to be home for family dinner, but now I wouldn't trade the things I learned and the relationships I built for anything in the world! - 4/20/2009 11:17:52 AM
  • In that it isn't always easy to get teenagers to do things, bottom line is that we are still the parents and they should be respecting what we want. I moved the TV in the livingroom so it couldn't be seen at all from the dining room. It is normally always turned off. However every so often we do through blankets on the livingroom floor and do a dinner picnic. My kids love it. Eating as a family is super important for so many reasons. Social, manners, family and it helps us know more about our kids and what is happening in their lives.
    Ask you son to compromise and do a few nights a week at the table. It might grow from there. - 2/10/2009 3:44:34 PM

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