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Families who dine at home together are happier and healthier, but work, school, sports practices and other obligations all seem to get in the way.
Whether your family mealtime happens every night or only once a week, in the morning before school or late-night for just dessert, it's import...
When kids eat with their parents, they are more likely to have:
You have more chances than you realize to connect with your family at the table. During the work week, most families have two opportunities a day to dine together (breakfast and dinner) and three chances (breakfast, lunch and dinner) on the weekends.
That gives us a total of 16 traditional...
Pros: Morning is often the only time everyone is together; kids love breakfast food. A study of 8,000 children in Europe showed that kids who ate breakfast with parents five or more days a week were 40 percent less likely to be overweight than their peers.
Pros: Usually simple and faster than other meals; great for picnics.
Cons: Just two chances a week (Sat, Sun) for most working families; an only family meal with a potential negative. Studies show that children who eat daily lunch with their parents are mo...
Pros: Longest meal of day (about 22 mins); a good time to catch up on events of day, school, work etc.
Cons: Tough on working parents to get home in time to cook; for teens, homework and sports conflicts interfere with dinner time.
Pros: Great option when one parent can’t be home for full dinner; use time at the table for game, conversation.
Cons: Adds extra calories to the day; time at table will be shorter than a regular meal.
Family researchers emphasize that there isn’t a magic number for family meals. But they do note that the benefits increase with every meal, so the more times you can gather as a family, the better. Every time parents sit down with their kids, it creates another opportunity to connect, and strong ...
The more times a week a teen sat down for a family meal, the more likely he or she reported having high-quality relationships with parents. Family dinners are also strongly linked to lower rates of teen substance abuse. Here are some numbers to think about:
0-2 Meals Per Week:
Don’t try to do everything at once. Look at your family and decide what your needs are. If it’s more family table time, try to find one extra meal that works.
If you’ve got picky eaters, focus on strategies to help everyone eat more healthful. If your problem is tension at the dinner tabl...
Sometimes the family table only has one adult. Divorced and single parents have different dinner planning challenges than married parents.
Sometimes one parent has to leave for work early, come home late or be away on business, leaving another parent to manage the family meal. Remember tha...
One-child families, particularly when there is only one parent, can feel lonely at the family table.
Eating meals with your child as often as possible still counts as a family meal, but consider joining another family from time to time to add a little extra noise and conversation to your ...
Sometimes an older sibling or caregiver is in charge of feeding the kids at night.
You can still get the benefits of a family meal by making sure healthful food is served, and asking the caregiver to create a fun meal or suggest games or conversation starters that will allow children and ...
The magic of the family table comes from the conversation and connection between parents and children, but it’s also important to serve nourishing food, model healthful eating habits and avoid food battles.
Childhood health experts say the best advice for improving a child’s diet is simply...
Everybody at the table, including the parents, has likes and dislikes. You can create different dishes for the meat lovers, vegetarians and picky eaters. Or you can just brace yourself for a nightly food battle.
But why not make it easier on everyone and create buffet-style build-your-own...
Once the food is served, limit any food talk about how good it tastes. Don’t make comments about how much or how little someone has put on their plate. Even something as simple as “Just eat a little more of that,” could prompt a child to become stubborn and resist the food. No cajoling. No bribin...
Children learn eating behaviors, both good and bad, from a parent. So dinner time is a good time to model healthful eating. If a child has avoided a dish, don’t pressure them.
Just give yourself a heaping serving, and ask them if they want to try. If they say no, just say “more for me!”...
With hot stoves, boiling water and sharp knives at hand, it is understandable that parents don’t want children in the kitchen when they’re making dinner. But studies suggest that involving children in meal preparation is an important first step in getting them to try new foods.
The secret sauce of family dinner is not the food — it’s the connection parents and kids make with each other.
Family meals offer a natural opportunity for parental influence. There are few other contexts in family life that provide a regular window of focused time together.
This is g...
Family meals should be fun, interesting and free of conflict.
Don't Talk About:
Bad grades or school problems: Kids never feel good when they struggle in school.
Chores: Kids feel berated when parents keep reminding them of chores.
How you can help: Ask your kids if they need any help with homework or school projects.
Weekend and vacation plans: Topics like holiday plans, weekend outings and dream vacations (past and future) are terrific topics for a fun family dinner.
Some families choose “zero tolerance” for mealtimes. There are certainly times when this is a good idea for everyone. Zero tolerance means you turn off all computers, televisions and cellphones.
Here’s the bad news — it’s usually parents who are most likely to break the rules. So zero tol...
Do your kids have a favorite song or video that’s on their minds? Sometimes technology can spark a conversation and family connection. Watch a short clip or let your child read from a funny blog post. Now put the phones in the center of the table and enjoy the conversation that ensues after you’v...
To get the most out of the family table, it’s time to learn how to play with your food.
Every time you gather as a family around the table, remember to create one fun and playful moment that everyone at the table can share. You can make shapes and faces out of food, make a recipe a parent l...
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