Are family meals a lost art, with cell phones and after school activities becoming all year round events? Is a family eating dinner together a thing of the past?
I’ll be the first to admit that in my home we don’t have enough family meals. By that I mean the type of meal where we are all sitting around the table, with all electronic devices off, talking about our days. My kids are each constantly participating in at least 2-3 different after school activities, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. This means they have to be in different places at different times on different days of the week, leaving little availability for a home cooked family meal. Our family eating dinner together generally means a quickly thrown together meal before heading back out the door.
Bringing Back the Lost Art of Family Meals
Though admittedly I do kind of adore the craziness and watching them flourish in their different activities, I also cherish those family meals when we find the time to sit down and be together. There are other reasons to cherish those home cooked family meals too.
Family meals mean lower calorie intake.
Restaurants often have very large portion sizes, but parents sometimes continue to put food on our plates when we aren’t hungry for more.
Yet people who frequently cook meals at home still eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less.
That goes for calories consumed away from home too! People who cook and eat at home most nights tend to eat fewer calories on the occasions when they do go out. Those extra carrots on your plate aren’t doing you too much harm after all.
Family meals mean healthier eating habits.
They say that the family that plays together stays together, but it should also be known (even if it doesn’t rhyme quite as nicely) that the family who eats together stays healthier together.
Beyond calorie counting, eating together leads to making healthier habits. Even if you aren’t the one doing the cooking, the very act of eating at home rather than out leads to healthier overall diets.
Since eating more meals at home leads to lower calorie intake and healthier choices, it should come as no surprise that people who eat home cooked meals may have less weight gain over time and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who eat most of their meals outside the home.
Family meals make children appreciate quality food.
Though cooking and preparing homemade meals may seem like a tedious task, studies show that the kids are taking notice. By seeing the amount time parents spend on food preparation at home, they are positively influenced to make better choices outside the home.
Having your children help with meal preparation may be valuable for more than great bonding time. It could be influential in getting them to eat healthy foods. Research shows that children who help cook at home are more likely to enjoy fruits and veggies than kids who don’t cook.
Additionally, when young people are not involved in cooking they tend to lack confidence and skills in the kitchen. Often these are the same kids who claim to not be worried about their nutritional intake, believing that exercising can compensate for a poor diet.
Family meals may be less expensive than eating out.
There’s no denying that we all love a good bargain. Is eating a family meal at home less expensive than eating out? The cost difference really depends on what you would make at home versus where you would eat and what you would order if you went out. We also can’t speak to differences in family cultures or individual budgets. Nor do we know what each household may do with their leftovers or exactly how far one home cooked meal could go. However, what we do know is that average prices for food made at home has stayed relatively flat (or perhaps even fallen) while restaurant prices are on the rise.
Family meals provide a way to connect.
Children who are brought up with predictable family routines tend to have better social and emotional health. Meals provide a routine context for family discussions; a place where stories are told and emotional connections are made.
You know those foods we turn to when we aren’t feeling well either physically or emotionally, or when we want to invoke a childhood memory? Those are our comfort foods, because they give us wellbeing, security, consolation, or relief. Without even realizing it, family meals are often what give our kids the comfort foods that will bring back those moments of togetherness for years to come.
So if you too have a hurried schedule where family meals are hard to come by, make an effort to come together when time permits.
Bringing Family Meals Back to Your Table
If you are ready to get back to the lost art of the family meal, here are 20 great family meal recipe books to get you on your way:
Because the family that eats together doesn’t just stay together, the family eating dinner together stays healthy together too!
50 Ways to Get (AND STAY) Healthy this Year
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45 Healthy Grilling Tips & Recipes
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