Volume 6, Number 3
Everyone Benefits from Family
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD
Nutrition and Health Education Specialist
Barton County, University of
One of the best pieces of advice we
can offer families these days is to make sure you eat together as a
family most nights of the week. Eating together as a family provides
a variety of positive benefits for all family members.
Parents want the very best for their children. Parents who regularly
eat with their children can rest assured that they will help their
children develop lifelong healthful eating habits.
According to the American Dietetic Associationís fact sheet Making
the Most of Family
Mealtime, children who regularly eat meals with their family eat
more fruits and vegetables and less fried food, saturated fat, and
soda than children who do not. They also have higher intake of
calcium, iron, fiber and vitamins. All of these nutrients are
important for the growth and development of children.
A University of Illinois study of 7-11 year old children found that
children who did well in school and on achievement tests regularly
ate meals with their families. A study conducted at Harvardís
Graduate School of Education found that young children who regularly
participated in family meals had increased vocabulary. Increased
vocabulary helps with reading skills.
The members of the family that often miss meals are the members that
reap some of the most profound benefits. The National Center on
Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that
teens who eat dinner with their parents six or seven times per week
are less likely to smoke cigarettes or marijuana and less likely to
consume alcohol. They are also less likely to have sex, get into
fights and have thoughts of suicide. A study at the University of
Minnesota found that girls who participate regularly in family meals
have less disordered eating habits.
How do you make family meals happen with the busy lifestyle of your
family? One important thing to do is plan ahead for family meals.
Cook extra food on the weekend or when you get a little bit of extra
time. Make an extra casserole and freeze it for a quick meal later.
Try to do some of the meal tasks ahead of time. You can cut up
fruits or vegetables in the morning or the night before to save that
step later. You can also cook pasta or taco meat ahead of time and
then warm quickly later.
Remember that meals donít have to be complicated. Keep it simple!
Some quick to fix ideas from USDAís Nibbles For Health include
adding canned or frozen vegetables to tomato or chicken soup for a
quick main dish. Mix chopped lean ham or deli meat and cooked
vegetables to macaroni and cheese. Or, serve chili over a baked
potato or rice as a main course. Remember to involve your children
in the reparation process. Children who help prepare the meal are
much more likely to consume it.
For more information see: