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Family Meals: Healthy Habits Start at Home

Author: Devon Smolca, MS

The Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect family gathered around the table over a sumptuous meal seems like a distant fantasy from our busy lives. There are so many obligations and commitments surrounding our family members, not to mention all the ways we get distracted by the myriad forms of media we have at our finger-tips. In many ways missing meals or watching a show while eating is a way to give ourselves time to decompress and escape the busy-ness of our lives. But engaging and having intentional meal times may have a greater impact on our children and our families than we know.

Why are family meals important?

Our perceptions of the world around us are formed as children. We begin to create our concepts about family, friends, ourselves and even our foods from a very young age. While what we are fed is certainly impactful on our relationship with food and health, how we are fed may play a vital role in, not only our wellness but for our overall development. 

The impact of family meals

Evidence shows that the frequency of family meals, meals shared by families, has positive correlations with child and adolescent nutrition and health as well as reducing the chances of obesity and disordered eating patterns.

These findings are not only limited to physical health and wellness but mental health as well.

Studies suggest that an increased frequency of family meals for children and adolescents are associated with, and may have positive impacts on physiological well-being, academic performance/learning, substance abuse and behavior

How to start enjoying family meals

It’s so important that we take the time to set positive examples for our young people whenever we can and a family meal is a wonderful opportunity! It may not seem like a big deal to us but it can have far reaching effects for our children, our future.

It may seem overwhelming with all the activities our families have planned but making this a priority and starting small with even 1-2 meals each week is a great start.

  1. Take a look at your calendars to find a time that works with everyone’s work and extracurricular schedule — this could be a Monday morning breakfast, a Thursday evening dinner, or a Sunday lunch.
  2. Add it to your family calendar and let everyone know the date and time.
  3. Plan something simple and stress-free. Focus your energy on enjoying the time together.

It may take a little time and planning at first, but over time, it can become a habit!