Eating Together Is Good for Kids
How often do you and your family all manage to sit down together for dinner? Your answer means far more than a chance to find out what's going on in school.
A Harvard Medical School study found the odds of being overweight were much lower among children who dined with their families most days. Other Harvard research shows families who dine together eat less fried food and drink less soda. They're also twice as likely to have five servings of fruits and vegetables and drink more milk.
Your child's health and waistline aren't all that's at stake. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University found that teens from families who almost never eat dinner together are much more likely to use illegal drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. Family meals, according to the latest CASA survey, are also a foundation for better parent-child relationships. Research also shows that family mealtime was the single strongest predictor of better tests scores and fewer behavioral problems. Meals scored even better than time spent studying or in church.
"Let children start setting the table and help deciding what you're going to eat and help preparing the food," says renowned Harvard pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. "Then, when you sit down, it's not just Mommy's or in some cases Daddy's meal, it's everybody's meal. With older children, you're setting the stage for mealtimes as times for reunion, relationships, and communication."
Be flexible, too. Remember:
It doesn't have to be dinner. If Dad doesn't get home until 8 p.m., Mom and the kids can have dessert with him. Or, the family meal can be Sunday brunch or a quick weekday breakfast of cereal and milk.
It doesn't have to be every day. Eat together as often as you can and make it a pleasant experience.
It doesn't have to be gourmet. Choose time-saving foods like store-cooked chicken, microwave veggies, prepared soups, or planned leftovers. Cook chili on the weekend and reheat it during the week.
You don't have to cook it. Takeout is OK.
It doesn't have to be at home. Quality fast food can be fine.