Psychologists and counselors, including Dr. Phil, have all shared their opinions about the benefits of family mealtime. University studies have also showed that the specific benefits gained when families share their meals have a great impact on a family's ability to stick together. There are even some cultures that strongly believe families should eat as many meals as possible together. It's unanimous- no one suggests that family meals should be optional. Specialists from all walks of the helping professions firmly believe in the benefits gained by sitting down together for meals.
Don't Miss Out on the Benefits of Family Mealtime
So, why is it so hard to implement? Shut off the cell phone, the television, the computer screen, the iPad, the Wii and waaaaaaa- everyone starts to complain!
One issue stressed by everyone who believes in the benefits of family mealtime is that technology isn't part of the meal. It can't be family time if some members are watching TV, others are texting their friends, and others are eating quickly so that they can get back to their online friends. The benefits of family mealtime come from the fact that the family shares stories from their day while they are eating. Technology interferes with family time, whether it is mealtime or a designated family night.
- Psychologists who study the benefits of family mealtimes believe that the family conversations help build confidence in young children.
- Many of these same psychologists also believe that family meals can cut down on the incidents of children and teenagers who develop eating disorders.
- The psychologists who study nutrition and health believe that conversations slow down meals. This allows the body time to absorb and start digesting the food as it is being eaten. They believe that it can even lower instances of overeating and decrease the weight gain blamed on eating too much fast food.
School of Public Health Study
To study the actual benefits of family time, a couple of universities studied families at their mealtimes. The School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota developed a study called Project EAT which stands for Eating Among Teens. Their study covered many different cultures in the Minneapolis/St Paul area by targeting 31 different public schools. They found that children who eat frequent meals with their families have fewer problems with substance use and abuse. They also found that young girls who eat frequent family meals have better grades and fewer depressive symptoms. In general, they realized that families who eat meals together are more connected and the children are protected from outside influences by the cohesiveness of the family.
What Happens at the Family Table?
In some cultures, food is associated with family bonding time. These cultures typically have large dinners where the whole family (sometimes even members of the extended family) sit down to share together. Instead of just concentrating on their food, the family members talk about their day and share stories. Some older member in the family may even share stories of life when they were young. What a concept!
Laughter is not uncommon at a family meal table which is one of the benefits of family mealtime. It is a time when adults and children alike can express their feelings over a bad day and deal with it as opposed to holding it in. It is often the most nutritious meal of the day for everyone because it typically has foods from the different food groups for that culture. It may even be followed by a period of dancing or playing a game in the yard while the older family members watch from the porch.
It appears that family mealtime is a healthier choice for all members of the family, with nutritional and emotional benefits. Family mealtime helps to create a family circle around the children which in turn protects them from outside social influences. It provides at least one balanced meal a day for nutrition health. One of the main benefits of family mealtime is that it simply helps the family to get along together better. Family members who eat together know what is going on in each others lives and helps each other get through the rough patches.
Cheers to eating together as a family!