10 benefits of eating as a family, according to science

Eating as a family strengthens unity and enriches each of the members of the family nucleus. It is a very healthy habit that not only increases the well-being of all, but also improves the quality of life.

Last update: January 01, 2022

Eating as a family is much more than a tradition. Science has proven that this custom has very positive effects on all members of the family and especially about children. Unfortunately, this habit has been largely lost.

Nowadays, it is not often that you have the habit of eating as a family. Each member takes care of their own and, generally, takes their food in front of a screen, while remaining immersed in their world. This is not only regrettable, it impoverishes life.

During the last two decades, several investigations have been carried out in which it is confirmed that eating as a family brings objective benefits to members of the family nucleus who go from increasing self-esteem to reducing obesity risks.

Eat as a family

Eating as a family is beneficial for physical and emotional health.

Family Therapist Anne Fishel, Executive Director of the Family Dinner Project, has thoroughly studied the implications of eating as a family. She has pointed out that, In recent years, fewer and fewer poor families eat together, but more wealthy families that do.

Apparently, the job and extracurricular activities are the factors that most affect in the difficulty to eat as a family. In a word, all the members of the family are very busy and, therefore, eat at different times and in different places.

Also, dinner with the family many times, apparently, gives rise to conflicts in some homes. But nevertheless, it is not the dinner itself that causes these problems, but rather in that environment they become more apparent. In fact, Fishel points out that there are studies showing that children and adolescents value food as a family.

10 benefits of eating as a family

As already mentioned, there are several studies that provide evidence of the benefits of eating as a family. Among these, the following stand out.

1. Stimulates development

Eat as a family it is an excellent stimulus to develop social skills, conversational and linguistic. Beyond nutrition itself, the family talk that accompanies dinner is a highly relevant factor in the development of children and adolescents. Those skills also include better manners.

2. Improves mental health

Children and adolescents who eat with their parents and siblings feel more secure and protected by the family nucleus. Also, they feel less alone and this contributes to making it easier for them to trust others and establish meaningful bonds with others. All of this enriches mental health.

3. Bring families together

Eat as a family strengthens the bonds between members of the family nucleus. Since each of them leads a life disconnected from the others, it is at dinner time when everything that is dispersed is brought together and becomes a shared experience.

4. Increase academic performance

An investigation by Columbia University, in the United States, revealed that children who ate as a family between five and seven times a week had better academic performance. This is because this is the time when their parents make sure they have done their homework. In the end, the result is better grades.

5. Improves physical health

Eating as a family also has important implications for physical health. Children who eat with their parents and siblings are better nourished than those who do it alone or in the company of their friends.

In general, they have greater access to healthy foods, rather than fried foods or sweets. Also, their meal times are more regular, which has a positive impact on their digestive health.

6. Generate more savings

Eating out is much more expensive than preparing food at home, as everyone knows. However, even if the food is bought outside, but then shared with the family, there are also savings. If, instead, food is bought separately, the bill goes up. One more reason to eat as a family.

7. Encourage healthy habits

Eating as a family encourages healthy eating habits

When children eat under parental supervision acquire important habits such as washing their hands before eating and chewing well. In addition, they learn to behave at the table, which facilitates their socialization and their insertion into the culture. It is not about conventions, but about knowing how to be with others.

8. Helps prevent obesity

While eating as a family ensures better nutrition, it is also a factor that helps prevent obesity. It should be noted that this problem has had a notable increase among minors in recent years and It is due, to a large extent, to the lack of parental control over their diet and, also, to sedentary lifestyle. Family dinners help avoid the former.

A meta-analysis published by the journal Pediatrics in 2011 indicates that children who eat as a family, at least three times a week, tend to maintain a normal weight range. Also, they are less prone to eating disorders.

9. Decreases the risk of anxiety and depression

A 2004 study indicated that teens who ate as a family showed fewer signs of depression and anxiety. Also, they were less likely to have emotional problems. In general, they dined with their parents and siblings no less than five times a week.

10. Helps prevent addictions

According to information provided by Stanford Children’s Health, teens who eat dinner as a family five to seven times a week are four times less likely to become smokers, 2.5 times less likely to use marijuana, and half to consume alcohol.

Eating as a family for the common good

Many psychologists recommend giving a role to each of the family members during dinner. One can be responsible for preparing food; the other, to set the table; one more, to wash the dishes, etc. All of this fosters autonomy, responsibility and empathy.

Ideally, set a time to eat as a family every day. But nevertheless, it is also important to be flexible and not make this a burdensome obligation. The best thing is not to deal with problems at the table, but to listen to each one and, perhaps, make plans for weekends and vacations.

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