Kara Meyer, Ph.D. - Psychology Services
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FAMILY MEALS

Most families lead busy lives. So much so that it is hard to plan healthy family meals, let alone sit down together to eat one. Yet, there are several benefits to sharing regular family meals.

Children who have regular family meals are more likely to have better overall nutrition by eating a balanced diet of a variety of foods. They eat less junk food, including soda and fatty or fried foods, and in turn eat more nutrient rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Regular family meals provide parents with the opportunity to introduce their children to a variety of healthful foods, making them more likely to make these choices on their own. Additionally, children who eat with their families also tend to learn healthy eating habits like good portion control, eating when they’re hungry, and stopping when they’re full. Thus, it’s no surprise that more recent research has revealed that children who regularly eat with their families are less likely to be overweight or to develop an eating disorder.

The benefits of family mealtime go beyond improved nutrition. Studies show that family meals are linked to school success in young children. Furthermore, teens whose families share meals are less likely to become depressed, use drugs, abuse alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. With parents as their models, children can learn to share, take turns, use good manners, as well as have appropriate conversation skills like making eye contact and listening when others are speaking. Likewise, mealtime conversations help children develop and practice language skills, as well as learn new vocabulary and how to share their point of view. Furthermore, family mealtimes can help children learn to take responsibility when they are involved in preparing meals, setting the table and cleaning up.  

Perhaps most importantly, family mealtimes can help families feel closer. They provide a time to share with each other, developing a sense of togetherness and belonging. Family mealtimes can also help your family to build family traditions and rituals that foster the development of self-confidence and self-esteem.  

Here are some tips for creating a family mealtime:
  • Start Simple: Start by planning at least one family meal per week. Once having a family meal becomes routine, it will be easier to add more to your schedule. The more consistently your family eats together, the better. Also, remember that a family meal doesn’t have to be dinner time – it can be any meal of the day.
  • Plan Ahead: Set aside time to plan your meals for the upcoming week. Try to do your shopping in one trip and even make some meals in advance to save time. Additionally, plan which meal(s) you will be eating together.
  • Be Nutritious: Limit junk foods, and try to have balanced meals by including as many vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as possible. Check out this resource for more information on balanced eating.  
  • Get Creative: Make something simple and easy, it still counts as a family meal if you’re eating PB&J or have ordered in. Try having a leftover night or dress up convenience foods – for example, add some peas and carrots to a box of mac & cheese. Make your family meal a picnic or let your kids have a shot at planning the menu.
  • Keep it Positive: Use the mealtime as a time to catch up. Give each person a turn to talk, and ask about the high points of each other’s day. Try to keep conflict out of it by setting aside another time to resolve disagreements. And remember, no TV or phone!

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.



**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.