benefits of family meals

When it comes to family meals, research shows us some clear correlations. Children who often take part in family meals see huge benefits in their academic and social lives. However it’s important to remember that correlation doesn’t equal causation.

Take a look at these humorous examples as an illustration:

  • as the sale of organic food increases over the years, so the rates of autism
  • as the consumption of ice cream increases in the summer months, so does the murder rate

We know that eating as a family is correlated with benefits, but we’re not necessarily sure why. There are possibly some other aspects of living in a family that eats together, which contribute and help the children’s development. These types of things are difficult for researchers to isolate.

Keeping that in mind, here is what we know according to the best research currently available:

Children who regularly eat with their family are:

¥ 35% less likely to suffer from disordered eating
¥ 24% more likely to eat healthier foods
¥ More likely to excel academically
¥ Less likely to suffer from depression

So, how do they define “regularly eating with the family?” The answer might surprise you. You only have to eat together three times a week to fit their definition. However, eating together more frequently is correlated with even more benefits. The benefit is dose-dependent. More family meals, more benefit.

We most often think of dinners as family meals, but any meal counts. Breakfast, lunch, even afterschool snacks. Children need to eat frequently throughout the day so there are plenty of opportunities to make it a family event!

Reflection:

How often does your family eat together?

If you don’t eat together at least 3x a week, how could you start to prioritize family meals? Do you need to rearrange schedules?

Decide right now on at least 3 times that you will eat together as a family each week.

Reference: http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/upload/Family-Mealtimes-2.pdf