Nutrition Articles

The Benefits of Eating Together

The Family Who Eats Together Stays Together

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Reason #5: Become Self-Sufficient
Children today are missing out on the importance of knowing how to plan and prepare meals. Basic cooking, baking, and food preparation are necessities for being self-sufficient. Involve your family in menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. Preschoolers can tear lettuce, cut bananas, and set the table. Older children can pour milk, peel vegetables, and mix batter. Teenagers can dice, chop, bake, and grill. Working as a team puts the meal on the table faster, as well as makes everyone more responsible and accepting of the outcome. Improved eating habits come with "ownership" of a meal.

Reason #6: Prevent Destructive Behaviors
Research shows that frequent family dinners (five or more a week), are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking, and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers when compared to families that eat together two or fewer times per week. Even as older children’s schedules get more complicated, it is important to make an effort to eat meals together. Scheduling is a must.

Reason #7: Improve Grades
Children do better in school when they eat more meals with their parents and family. Teenagers who eat dinner four or more times per week with their families have higher academic performance compared with teenagers who eat with their families two or fewer times per week.

Reason # 8: Save Money
Meals purchased away from home cost two to four times more than meals prepared at home. At present time the restaurant industry’s share of the total food dollar is more than 46%. Due to scheduling, commitments, and activities, families eat out several times each week.

It is time to bring the "family" back to the dinner table. Sharing dinner together gives everyone a sense of identity. It can help ease day-to-day conflicts, as well as establish traditions and memories that can last a lifetime.
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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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