Eating with Kids: Family Meals Matter

by Brittany Barton for Change Food
August 28, 2015

From the 2011 TEDx Manhattan event titled

From the 2011 TEDx Manhattan event titled “Changing The Way We Eat” held February 12, 2011 in NYC. Photo by Jason Houston.

As summer winds down, families gear up for the back to school routine. This means earlier mornings, shuttling kids to and from school, fitting in basketball practice, dance class, piano lessons, homework and time with friends. Each family is stretched for time and something critical is missing, family dinner.

August is Family Meals Month. In 2011, Laurie David presented at TEDxManhattan on the importance of healthy, family meals in a world where eating right has become increasingly difficult. The dinner table is where we learn our first lessons of civilized behavior. With kids spending more than seven hours per day on electronic devices, they are missing out on key lessons gleaned from human connection. Laurie mentions that entire families living under the same roof are leading separate lives under the influence of personal electronics.

Connected family time is moving toward extinction and children are suffering for it. Studies show a decreased risk in drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression when families share a meal at least three times per week.

The regular act of sitting down and eating together creates a safe, predictable time with ritualized access to one another. This is a time for real connection away from electronics where children learn values and manners.

Laurie lists these advantages to family meal time:

  • The dinner table is the most effective place to share values, pass on family history, debate opinions, build vocabulary and learn manners.
  • Many of the risks parents worry about (drugs, alcohol, etc.) decrease when a family dinner is a shared experience.
  • Children perform better in school and have higher academic achievements.
  • Children who have regular dinner as a family do better at every aspect of life.

In previous generations, family dinner was a non-negotiable. It was at the core of America’s value system. All family members were expected to eat together, to engage in conversation and also show gratitude for their meal.

Laurie points out that over half of today’s meals are purchased outside the home and our health is declining. When you buy prepared food, you have no control over the ingredients. The prepackaged convenience foods so many turn to for a quick meal are taking a toll on the country’s health.

With our over-scheduled lifestyle, something so simple as family dinner can greatly improve a child’s potential.

Eating a meal together is an action step we can take right now. It doesn’t require a government subsidy. And the effects can positively impact our society at large. All you need is time.

For help planning a family dinner, Laurie’s newest book, The Family Cooks Cookbook, has over 100 fast, tasty recipes with real ingredients for people who think they are too busy to cook. Each is easy to prepare, thoroughly broken down into simple steps for the beginner cook.  

Read more about The Family Cooks Cookbook here.

Watch Laurie David’s TEDxManhattan talk here.

Brittany Barton is a contributing writer for Change Food. As the creative behind SparkleKitchen.com, Brittany offers real food recipes, sustainable living guidance and inspiration for others to become more sparkly versions of themselves. 

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

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One response to “Eating with Kids: Family Meals Matter

  1. Great article! Family dinners are the best. Even if it’s just two people 😉

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