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New Study Underlines Benefits of Family Mealtimes

Children who ate meals with their families were more active, drank less pop, had better mental health, were less aggressive and less likely to be delinquent.

Canadian researchers published a study in December 2017 about the value of family mealtimes among children from infancy to age 10.  The researchers reported that children who ate meals with their families were more active, drank less pop, had better mental health, were less aggressive and less likely to be delinquent.

For the past year, the NDSU Extension Service has been promoting “The Family Table,” which provides resources and encouragement for family meals. In 2018, you can learn more about cooking. The Family Table project aims to involve kids and families in food preparation and having fun in the kitchen in the new year. You will get age-appropriate ideas for involving children in food preparation. Visit to learn ways to make family meals a reality and gather some family-style cooking tips. Follow the Facebook site and sign up for the free newsletter.

The following are some things to keep in mind to ease the process of eating together for family meals:

  • Figure out which days (and meals) work best for your family to eat together each week. Try for at least three meals per week, preferably more! Nothing going on Monday night? Eat dinner as a family. Basketball game Thursday evening? Eat breakfast together before work and school. Communicate with all family members so everyone is in the loop.
  • Use the recommendations as a guide for healthful eating. According to MyPlate, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables and half of your plate should be grains and proteins (one-fourth of each). Don’t forget to incorporate a serving of dairy or other calcium-rich food. Aim for whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • Plan your meals. Find a day that works for you to sit down and plan meals for the entire week. Choose recipes that contain similar fresh foods. For example, if you are making a pasta recipe that contains spinach, find other recipes that use spinach or serve a spinach salad one day. This eliminates waste of fresh produce, which also saves money.
  • Serve fruit as a dessert for your family meal. Because fruits contain natural sugars, they satisfy the sweet tooth. Try healthful options such as fruit smoothies and yogurt parfaits. Allow your children to help or make their own, which turns dessert into a fun family activity.
  • Take chances. Don’t be afraid that your kids won’t like what you make. Children and adolescents want their parents to serve healthful meals according to researchers studying family mealtimes. Now is the time to try something new and get feedback during your meal together.
  • Have fun! Family meals aren’t supposed to be stressful. They are meant to be an opportunity for family bonding, interaction, and growth. Enjoy your time together.

Visit to learn more about “The Family Table.” Eat, connect and savor at the family table.  Join the challenges and sign up for an electronic newsletter with recipes and tips. Follow the program on Facebook for more tips, meal plans and ideas for getting conversations going during family meals.

Filed under: fca newsletter

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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