https://www.thesmallseed.com/blog/2018/ ... hink-again
Studies have shown that having regular family meals are a potential remedy for all kinds of problems in childhood and adolescence such as depression, unhealthy eating, obesity, eating disorders, body dissatisfaction, substance abuse, academic struggles, and family dysfunction. While these protective findings are just what every parent wants to hear for their child and family, these studies can also make some parents feel guilty. It’s hard to have family meals every night when we are pulled in every direction for kids’ activities or work schedules. We often feel too tired or stressed and unable to do one more thing. Hearing that more family meals will benefit our children just adds another checkmark to the “bad parent list.”
My research shows, however, that having family meals may not be as unreachable as we sometimes feel. For years, I have been looking for answers about how to help more families gain the health benefits from family meals without feeling guilty that they don’t have them every night. My research has investigated several questions that all of us wonder about:
( 1 ) Do you have to have a family meal every night to reap the benefits of family meals?
( 2 ) Does everyone need to be there?
( 3 ) Does it matter what types of foods are served? And,
( 4 ) Does it count to have a family meal other than dinner?
I have found that the recipe for experiencing the benefits of family meals (e.g., healthy dietary intake, healthy weight, good mental health, family communication/connectedness, less disordered eating behaviors) includes:
- Family meals only have to occur a couple times a week
- Meals can be as short as 20 minutes
- Only a few family members need to be present
- Eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner family meals count
- You can eat family meals during the week or on the weekend
- The food eaten doesn’t need to be made from scratch, having a healthy combination meal counts (e.g., stir in a vegetable with mac and cheese; serve a salad with your pizza)
- You can go out to eat a family meal
I am also comforted by the following:
If you didn’t have family meals as a kid and you don’t currently have them with your own family, it’s never too late to start and still experience the protective benfits of family meals for yourself and your children.
Not only kids benefit from family meals; parents also have more healthy habits when having family meals.
When kids help make the family meal, they eat even healthier.