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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Family Dinner Time

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A family eating dinner together. Growing up, my family always sat down to dinner to eat together. It was a time to catch up on our days and discuss anything that was going on at school or in after school activities. I definitely feel like this made our family closer and we were able to communicate more efficiently. I still implement this as much as possible with my family today.

It seems with busy schedules, both parents working in many families, and everyone being pulled in a million different directions with different schedules, spending time as a family at the dinner table takes a back seat. Research from Rutger’s University indicates that about 40% of the average family budget is spent eating out and typically they aren’t even eating out together. That is crazy to me! Family dinner meals should be a priority. Here are some of the many benefits and reasons why I encourage this for everyone!

 

  • More fruit and veggie intake: Research has shown that family dinners increase the intake of fruits and vegetables and families who eat dinner together tend to eat fewer fried foods and drink less soda.
  • Higher nutrient intake: Family meal frequency is linked to the intake of important nutrients such as calcium, protein and some vitamins. 
  • Less junk food: Family dining also encourages less consumption of junk food.
  • Better nutrition habits later in life: Eating together as a family encourages the development of healthy eating habits that children can carry with them into adulthood. According to studies issued in a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children who eat at least five times a week with their family are at a lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems or alcohol and substance dependencies, and tend to perform better academically in school than their peers who frequently eat meals alone or away from home.
  • Social improvements in children: Not only are nutritional benefits being studied but also developmental benefits. Some research has shown all the positive effects on children and how social improvements have been linked to frequency of family meals.
  • Understand boundaries: Children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand, acknowledge and follow the boundaries and expectations set by their parents. 

Start planning what you are going to cook each night in advance so you always have something ready to go when your family is hungry and you don’t resort to reaching for the phone to dial the local pizza joint. You can even have your kids help you decide what they want for dinner one night. My kids love it when we go to the grocery store and they get to pick something out for dinner! If they have involvement in the decision making process they will likely enjoy their meal more. Eating as a family should become a priority, especially after seeing all the nutritional and developmental research associated with family dinners.

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Tags: Healthy Eating

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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