Five reasons family meals really do matter

Soccer. Band practice. Late meetings. There are so many hurdles to getting everyone to the dinner table at the same time -- and so many reasons why you should try to make it a priority. Sharing family meals leads to real benefits, and not just because you’ll have a little help with cleanup!

Chew on these fast facts:

Healthy weights

According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, kids who partake in family meals three or more times per week are more likely to land in the normal weight range -- with 12 percent lower odds of being overweight -- than those who share fewer than three family meals.

 

Better relationships

Think about it: the more time you spend with your kids, the more time you’ll have to bond with them. Want to know what’s going on in their lives? Talk about it at the table. A regular dinnertime can give kids a sense of security and belonging in the household. This, in turn, can lead to better mental health; adolescents being treated for depression are half as likely to be eating with their families regularly.

 

Smarter choices

A new report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) shows that when compared to teens who dine often with their parents, teens who do not are more likely to have used tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. There’s more: teens who eat with their families less than three times per week are twice as likely to be able to obtain marijuana or prescription drugs in less than an hour.

 

Better nutrition

Go, parents! The University of Minnesota’s Project EAT researchers found that teens who sit down to eat with their families often are getting more fruits, vegetables and calcium than those who do not experience it as a consistent habit. Additionally, a study at Harvard found they get a better helping of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and less saturated fat and trans-fatty acids.

 

Long-lasting affects

The research doesn’t lie: Family meals during a child’s adolescent years will positively affect what’s on his or her plate during young adulthood: more fruit and vegetables -- and lower intakes of soft drinks -- are predicted as they grow up. Additionally, studies have shown that teens who eat regularly with their broods are more likely to do better in school, which can have benefits for years to come.