Tag Archives: family meals

Say No to Drugs, Yes to Family Meals

In a time when families are dealing with two careers, longer working hours and children with numerous extracurricular activities, the fate of the shared, home cooked, family meal seems in jeopardy.  But the fact is that many families juggle commitments in order to eat together as often as possible. We know that eating meals together increases the enjoyment of the meal, solidifies family bonds and encourages communication about the day’s activities among family members.  If we are willing to make the extra effort required to share a common meals, then our lives are richer as we break bread together; family solidarity is built.


Children love the predictability of positive family events that occur daily and shared family meals are very beneficial to them.  Family dinner conversation helps expand children’s vocabulary skills and increases success in learning to read.  Mealtime is also where children learn many of their social skills including table manners and the art of conversation.

Much of family history relating to culture and race is passed on to children by parents at the dinner table.  Food rituals may illuminate a family’s ethnic heritage when traditional meals are served.  These things help stabilize the child’s identity as a member of a particular group.  Studies show that children who participate in regular family meals and other rituals have more emotional resilience to help them handle stress and chaos in other areas of life.  Marooning babies in high chairs or plopping children in front of the tube while they are being fed robs them of what could be an otherwise enriching experience.

If all that doesn’t convince you, consider this.  The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a study showing that teens who regularly dine with their families have a smaller chance of smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs; and they also earn better grades in school.  Set a firm foundation of shared meals when your children are young.

There are also nutritional advantages to eating meals together.  Children who dine without parents or siblings eat fewer servings from the necessary food groups. This is partly true because when parents are present they can monitor a child’s food intake, ensuring nutritional adequacy.  Eating together also gives parents the opportunity to model good eating habits such as choosing healthy foods, chewing food well, and stopping when full.

Keep conversation pleasant at mealtime.  If you have touchy subjects to bring up with your spouse or children, don’t do it while dining.  Unpleasant news will tighten the stomach, take your mind off the enjoyment of eating and the potential benefit of the meal will have been wasted.

What are some of the rituals you practice to keep your family meals fun and lively?

(excerpt from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair)