By: Jodie Shield, RD
If your family dinner hour is constantly being bumped by other activities like soccer practice or volunteer meetings, you may want to reconsider your priorities. Research has shown that when families eat together at least five times a week, both parents and kids benefit. The parents have more quality time with their children, and the kids do better intellectually, emotionally, and physically. If your family eats dinner together regularly, you will . . .
Keep the lines of communication open. Eating dinner together provides a perfect opportunity for everyone to share information about their day or plans for the week. Try to keep the conversation positive and reinforcing so that family members will look forward to dining together.
Boost your child’s self-confidence. Studies have found that children who eat dinner with their family regularly feel more secure and stable than those whose families have no dinner routine. Children thrive on routines and find it reassuring to know that they will have their parents’ attention each day.
Enhance vocabulary skills. A Harvard University study found that when preschoolers listen to and take part in dinnertime conversations, they tend to have better verbal skills and may turn out to be better readers and writers. That’s probably because when kids eat with adults, they hear more complex words, can ask what these words mean, and can practice using them.
Help children and teens maintain a healthy weight. According to the American Dietetic Association (www.eatright.org), children who skip regular meals tend to snack all day long and eat convenince foods, which are usually high in calories, sugar and fat. This eating pattern, coupled with inactivity, can lead to weight gain.
Bottomline: To reap the benefits of family meals, strive for eating five dinners together each week. How many nights a week does your family eat together?