Make Family Dinner A Priority
By Sarah Lyons
Families have changed a lot in the last fifty years. More women have entered the workforce giving families the benefit of two incomes, single parent families are also more common, and kids are involved in more after school activities than previous generations. All of this leads to both positive and negative changes in family dynamics and ultimately leaves us with busier lives and fuller schedules. While there are benefits to our current lifestyle, we cannot deny the fact that designated family dinner time has suffered. Before you brush family dinner aside as a thing of the past, consider the benefits of making it a priority.
When families eat dinner at home they are more likely to be exposed to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. The foods we eat are usually made from fresh ingredients, as well. Families who eat on the go often turn to fast food or quick meals because of convenience. These options are typically higher in fat, calories, and are loaded with sodium. Picky eaters who are exposed to more fruit and vegetables at home are more likely to try new foods over time.
Families who eat at home control the portion size served. This helps teach kids healthy eating habits. “Over the past few years portions have grown significantly in restaurants as has the frequency of Americans eating out. Bigger portions can mean that you’re getting more food than your body can stomach to maintain a healthy weight.” (www.heart.org) Eating proper portions along with a variety of healthy foods will teach kids how to maintain a healthy lifestyle as they become adults.
Dinner time is a great opportunity to catch up with what is going on in with each family member. Try going around the table and have each family member state their “high and low” of the day. This gives every member of the family a time to share the best and worst of their day and opens further discussion. Giving the family a designated time to talk helps connect family members to each other and opens the lines of communication between them.
In 2009, the average American spent $2,619 per person on eating out in one year. (www.yahoo.com) For a family of four that total comes to $10,476 and that number continues to rise each year as we enjoy the convenience of dining out. It is obvious from these numbers that families can save a lot of money by eating at home.
Long term positive benefits for kids
According to www.thefamilydinnerproject.org kids who share dinners with their family several times a week are more likely to have higher self esteem, have a lower risk of depression and are less likely to develop eating disorders. Kids are also more likely to have better grades and graduate high school.
It can be difficult to make time for family dinner, but given these great benefits it’s easy to see why it should be a priority. If your family schedule is complicated, start with one family dinner per week and slowly increase the frequency. It will not take long to see the benefits for every family member involved.
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