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Family Meals Offer Many Benefits

Family Meal
 
Family Meal
As families close out the summer and gear up for the busy fall, keep this item as a priority on your calendar: making time for family meals.

As families close out the summer and gear up for the busy fall, keep this item as a priority on your calendar: making time for family meals. In the hustle and bustle of family life, we may forgo eating together in favor of spending potential family time on extracurricular activities designed to improve minds and bodies and keep kids out of “trouble.”

As numerous studies have shown, eating more meals together has numerous benefits, probably more benefits than some extracurricular activities.

Researchers have shown that children who eat more meals with their families are more likely to earn mostly A's and B’s, compared with kids who eat fewer times with their families. Children who eat with their families improve their communication skills and build their vocabularies. Even the occasional bickering session among siblings builds communication
skills.

Family meals provide structure, stability and feelings of belonging. As a result, children who eat meals more often with their families are less likely to engage in risky behavior, such as drinking alcohol, smoking or drug abuse. They’re also less likely to be depressed and less likely to have eating disorders.

A family that eats together enjoys more nutritious meals, too. Kids who eat more often with their families eat more fruits and vegetables, more calcium-rich foods and less high-fat, highly sweetened foods. They’re more likely to meet their needs for fiber, iron, vitamin E and folate, too. That’s good news for health.

  • Set a goal to eat together more often as a family. Aim for at least five family meals per week. Schedule them on the family calendar.
  • Be creative. Family meals can be at any time or place. How about Saturday morning brunch or family breakfasts?
  • Be a role model. Don’t just tell kids to eat their vegetables. Have seconds of broccoli.
  • Involve children in the planning, shopping, preparation and cleanup for meals. They’ll learn valuable skills for a lifetime and have some fun, too.
  • Turn off the TV, radio and other distractions. Chat with each other.

 

For more information about family meals, see “Family Meal Times” (a series of 12 newsletters) available here: www.ag.ndsu.edu/food (search for “Family Meal Times”).

Source: Reprinted from Prairie Fare, a weekly column by Julie Garden-Robinson, www.ag.ndsu.edu/food

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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