We all know that it’s important to try and make time to eat together as a family. That’s been known ever since Leave it To Beaver was on television. Probably even longer. But with busy schedules, many households in which both parents have to work, single parent homes and a plethora of other situations always preventing us from actually practising the fine art of family dinners, it’s a practice that has kind of gone by the wayside.
Well according to new findings that were presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto recently, eating as a family isn’t just good for your emotional health, it’s also better for your physical health. Those who ate as a family tended to be healthier overall, according to the study, than those who dined alone. That isn’t the only reason to eat together, though. Here are just some of the amazing benefits that come with eating family dinners together.
1. It keeps everyone trim
There have been studies linked to obesity and eating on the fly. Unsurprisingly, those who were able to sit down and have a healthy meal together had more healthy BMIs. Given the types of fast food we usually consume when we’re in a rush this makes complete sense, but having that time to sit down and actually digest a meal rather than wolfing it down helps us know when we’re full and it’s time to stop eating too.
2. It affects your cholesterol
Obviously this goes hand-in-hand with eating crappier food on the fly, but those who ate dinner with one or more family members more than once a week benefited from lower levels of bad cholesterol in their bodies.
3. It lowers your blood pressure
Not having to stress about shoving something in your face is a great way to reduce blood pressure, sure. But there’s also evidence to support that having an actual conversation and relaxing at dinner time is a great way to calm down and give your body the healthy break it probably needs, too.
4. It helps kids say no to drugs
Having a structured dinnertime isn’t just about the food we put in our bodies. Studies have shown that those kids who ate family meals with their parents were less likely to suffer from substance abuse in their later years.
5. It lowers the chance for an eating disorder
When you’re able to watch what your kids are actually consuming, you’re automatically opening up a dialogue about healthy eating habits. Having family meals not only allows you to make sure that your children are consuming the nutrients they need, but it’s also a chance to foster positive body image as well.
6. It helps overall communication
Without a TV to distract everyone or somewhere to dash off to, family meals are a great chance to find out what’s going on in your kids lives, and to get to know new things about them. Ask questions about their day, friends and activities. Children won’t always tell you what’s going on, but if they at least have that venue to share chances are they will when they really need it.
7. It teaches overall manners
This may not be the top reason on the list, but it sure is one worth remembering. If your kids are used to scarfing back food, eating with their hands or talking with their mouths open, family meals are another chance to shape future behaviours slowly but surely over time.
While these reasons are certainly motivating enough to have anyone rethink family time, keep in mind that no family is perfect, either. Having breakfast and dinner together every day is almost impossible for most of us. But if you are looking to get into the habit of cooking for your family more and making a point of all sitting down together, start slow and steady. Aim for two to three nights per week to start, and as you find your routine build from there.
And don’t forget to give everyone a break once in a while, too. After all, TV dinners every so often can be a fun treat for the whole family.