3 reasons to enjoy family meals together

With busy lives, varying schedules and the increasing presence of technology in our lives, family meals often move down the priority list. 

Family meals may be defined as children and adolescents of all ages, sitting at the table and eating with at least one parent or adult loved one, without technology. It’s not about cooking an elaborate meal or stressing about what your child eats, it is about being together, connecting and learning. These meals do not have to be long either, a main meal may be 20 minutes and a snack may be 10-15 minutes. 

Here are three reasons why you may want to consider incorporating family mealtimes into your day. 

1. Having regular, sit down meals at the table together helps with establishing a regular meal and snack routine. In doing so, you are helping to support appetite regulation and reduce the chances of mindless grazing between meals, over time.  

2. Children and adolescents that eat family meals are more likely to evolve to consume a higher quality diet, according to research. Of note, higher intakes of vegetables, fruits and fibre and lower intakes of saturated fats have been observed (1)

3. Research shows that children and adolescents who eat family meals more often are less likely to experience disordered eating or alcohol and substance use. Research is unclear on the exact mechanism of this relationship. It has been proposed that the perception of family cohesiveness and related increase to self esteem, may reduce the risk of engagement in such unhealthy behaviours (2). Additionally, the experience of positive family mealtime experiences has also been shown to be a protective factor against disordered eating (3).

If you feel you and your family may need some extra guidance in setting up positive family meals, feel free to reach out to our family Dietitian Danielle Bell for support here.

References:

(1) Gillman, M.W., Rifas-Shiman, S.L., Frazier, A.L., Rockett, H.R., Camargo Jr, C.A., Field, A.E., Berkey, C.S. and Colditz, G.A., 2000. Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of family medicine, 9(3), p.235

(2) Harrison, M.E., Norris, M.L., Obeid, N., Fu, M., Weinstangel, H. and Sampson, M., 2015. Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. Canadian Family Physician, 61(2), pp.e96-e106.

(3) Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Story, M. and Fulkerson, J.A., 2004. Are family meal patterns associated with disordered eating behaviors among adolescents?. Journal of adolescent health, 35(5), pp.350-359.

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