Family Meals Matter
March is National Nutrition Month®, making it a good time to think about ways to improve health through better nutrition.
Nutrition is at the core of many of our most prominent health issues, such as overweight and obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. A lifestyle of proper nutrition combined with regular physical activity can help prevent many of these serious health problems.
If you’re looking for strategies to improve your family’s nutrition and health, one of the best places to look is no further than your own family table!
It may seem like a simple idea, but regular family meals offer valuable rewards for the entire family. Eating together on a regular basis gives family members time to connect, communicate, and share what is going on in their lives. Family meals help promote a sense of family stability and inclusiveness. Parents gain the opportunity of having a regular time set aside to talk to their children and learn about their children’s school day, friends, activities, and concerns. When parents give their children their time and attention during family meals, children and teens can build self-esteem from knowing that they are their parents’ priority.
The health benefits of regular family meals range from better nutrition for the whole family to enhanced social and emotional health for teens. Here at Health Edco, we have creative health education resources that cover many of the health topics associated with the benefits of family meals. Read on to learn more about the benefits of family meals and discover a few of our teaching tools that can help reinforce understanding of the rewards family meals provide.
Benefits of Regular Family Meals
- Better nutrition is one key benefit of sharing regular family meals. Meals prepared in the home tend to be more nutritious and healthier than foods consumed when dining out. Parents can spend quality time with their children as they teach them to prepare healthy meals. Eating together as a family increases the likelihood that everyone will get the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Family meals prepared in the home also provide family members with the opportunity to consume more lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products instead of fast food and junk food that is filled with saturated fat and added sugars.
With 41 food models, our MyPlate Deluxe Faux Foods Package
feaures lifelike food models from each of MyPlate’s food groups.
Eating together as a family gives parents the chance to introduce their children to different foods and to model healthy eating behaviors. When children watch their parents try and enjoy different foods, they tend to follow their example. Parents also can model eating healthy portion sizes by teaching children to take small servings at first, getting more when they are still hungry, and stopping once they are satisfied.
models with common objects to teach about healthy portion sizes.
- Studies suggest that children who eat regular family meals are less likely to become overweight or obese. Children with obesity are more likely to become obese adults, increasing their risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer in adulthood.
- Children and teens from families that have regular family meals are also less likely to develop eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia.
about the dangers of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
- Teens from families that have regular family meals are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. They are also more likely to choose friends who don’t use drugs.
- In families that have frequent at-home meals together, young children pick up new words in family discussions and have the chance to develop their attention spans by hearing longer narratives and explanations. When they become teens, children from families with frequent family meals tend to get better grades.
- Teens from families that frequently dine together experience less emotional stress and have better emotional health than teens from families that infrequently share meals.
includes tips to help teens manage stress in healthy ways.
Clearly, having regular family meals provides important benefits for the entire family. It’s a simple concept that may be difficult to implement with a household full of busy schedules, but the rewards are priceless.
Make the Most of Family Meals
- The more regular family meals, the better. Try to have at least three family meals each week.
- Put the focus on being together and sharing family time, not on having a fancy meal.
- Get the whole family involved. Plan a weekly menu together. Have children help prepare the meals and set the table. Get everyone to participate in the cleanup, too.
- Have healthy snacks available when family members get home from work or school to tide them over until dinner.
- Turn off the television, and have everyone put away their phones, tablets, and other distractions during the meal.
- Make mealtime an enjoyable time. Avoid using it as a time to lecture or discipline children. Maintain a comfortable, soothing environment. Try playing relaxing music or decorating the table.
- Give everyone the opportunity to try new, healthy foods, but don’t force children to eat them. Children may be more likely to try new foods if they see their parents try them, and you may need to offer new foods multiple times before children will try them. Allow children to decide how much they want to eat, and do not tell them to clean their plates.
Discover More Nutrition Education Resources
At Health Edco, we have a dedicated line of nutrition education resources that are perfect to teach MyPlate’s nutritional guidelines and cover multiple nutrition topics, such as nutrients, portion control, healthy food choices, added sugars, and much more. To see our full line of nutrition education materials and models, please visit our Nutrition Education Materials & Models Section.
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