Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA - Family Meals: There's Proof That They (And You) Matter
I remember a public service advertisement several years ago where David Hyde Pierce (Niles Crane from the show “Frazier”) says, “Want to know what your kids are up to? Get them around the dinner table once a week for a family meal.”
Uh, once a week? Wow, things have really changed. I know we all, kids included, have busy lifestyles, but when someone has to tell you to have a meal with your kids at least once a week, then that’s as red a flag as I’ve ever seen that family life is out of balance. Call me old school, and I know times have changed, but I remember growing up and, even in high school, having family dinner nearly every night was more than just a nice thing – it was pretty much expected of you as a member of the family. It was a priority. Your schedule had to work around the family dinner because that was when you were expected to be in your seat at the dinner table. Even schoolwork took a break for those 30 minutes or so. If you resented it (I didn’t – Mom made terrific meals), then that was just too bad.
Family meals were that important to my parents, and they were ahead of their time.
Some recent research in the Journal of Pediatrics that indicates there’s even more to family meals than family bonding. There are some serious health benefits. It turns out that sharing at least 3 family meals a week with your kids is associated with:
- Increased odds of eating healthy foods by 24%
- Reduced odds of overweight by 12%
- Reduced odds of disordered eating by 35%
This underscores previous research that has shown that meals prepared and eaten at home tend to include more calcium, fiber, and fruits and vegetables – all the things most diets are lacking.
Put simply, family meals matter. Have them as often as you can.
Hammons AJ and Fiese BH. Is frequency of shared meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents? Journal of Pediatrics, Vol 27 no. 6. Online at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/04/27/peds.2010-1440
Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA
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