8 Reasons to Make Time for Family Dinner ...

It’s quite sad that you should have to find reasons to have family dinner, don’t you think? At one time it was quite the norm that everyone ate at the same time and nobody needed to look for reasons to have family dinner. With our fast-paced lives we have forgotten how special getting together to eat is and so many families eat on the run or at various times, as they dash from one thing to the next. Those traditional values still hold significance though and there are plenty of good reasons to have family dinner today, if actually, not more than in decades past.

1. Supper Can Be a Stress Reliever

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We wonder why our kids are no longer interested in family life. With the way our fast paced world is moving it’s no wonder our family life as we once knew it is slowly disappearing. Perhaps dad ‘just has to finish this one last urgent query’ before heading home, Mom schlepping junior from one after-school club to another, and older kids in their rooms glued to game consoles or at soccer practice. Hunger pangs setting in? Just grab something from the fridge or eat breakfast bars on the run. With the decline of the traditional family dinner it’s perhaps more important than ever that the old saying ‘the family that plays together – stays together’ has never been more important. Without realizing it, our families have gone their separate ways and stress abounds on all levels. It’s time to reconnect with family mealtime and invest in one of the best reasons to have family dinner – it makes everyone slow down!

2. Put a Little Cash in Your Pocket

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The amount of money an average household spends on meals can be saved by planning regular family dinners at home. Saving on the household budget is one of the great reasons to make time for family dinners. In 2007, according to the National Consumer Expenditure Survey it seems $3,465 was spent on meals at home, while takeaway meals had cost the family $2,668. These outside meals only amounted to 30% of the total meals eaten, but had cost $8.00 per meal while only $4.50 for a homemade meal.

3. Family Dinners Help Kids "Just Say No"

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By eating regular well balanced meals it has been found that children are much less likely to take up drinking alcohol, smoking and taking drugs and more likely to say ‘no’ to substance abuse. Elizabeth Planet from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University firmly believes "while substance abuse can strike any family, regardless of ethnicity, affluence, age, or gender, the parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent [it]." Therefore it stands to reason having regular sit down family dinners will encourage family participation.

4. You Control the Portions

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The portions served at many restaurants are forever increasing in size, but not only is our portion increasing but so are our waistlines. By preparing homemade meals, we are able to control the portions served and meals at home generally means an intake of at least 60% fewer calories than food eaten in fast food and restaurants. These are cost effective and healthy reasons to have family dinners at home.

5. It Gets the Entire Family Involved...

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Our unhealthy fast food lifestyle must be changed to eating more healthily but I don’t mean just ‘rabbit food’. There is a wealth of delicious menus available in cookery books and on the Internet. Set a competition as to who can come up with the quickest and tastiest meals, making an exciting way to generate more reasons to have family dinners. Get the whole family involved and let everyone become more acquainted with all the fresh vegetables and fruits available instead of pre-cooked and wrong fat foods.

6. Healthy Meals Mean Healthy Kids

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“Adolescent girls who have frequent family meals, and a positive atmosphere during those meals, are less likely to have eating disorders”. (University of Minnesota, 2004). By having regular family dinners together you are helping your children develop a good connection with food setting them up for life. During family meals together, discuss and teach the merits of healthy eating habits, why kids should learn to love their veggies and help everyone understand the good reasons to make time for family dinners.

7. Better Food, Better Report Card

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Maybe, the best reasons to have family dinners all together is that our kids’ school grades will be improved, they will open up to you in a more positive manner, and most importantly, will know how proud you are of them.

8. It’s the Perfect Setting for New Foods

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Exposing children to new foods at family meals will give them lifelong enjoyment of all types of cuisine and should mean you won’t develop a brood of fussy eaters. A study in 2003 by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a report about children who were given strips of sweet red pepper and asked to rate it. The test was repeated each day for several days and on the last day, the kids were again asked to rate the peppers. It was found that by the end of the test, the red pepper ratings had increased. Another group of tested children were given rewards for tasting the peppers, however their results had not exceeded the first group. Having frequent exposure to different foods is crucial in developing taste buds and why we should be planning delicious healthy meals and to make time to eat together as a family.

Summing it up, the reasons to have family dinners are that it promotes a cohesive family unit, produces happier kids, meals are healthier, it reduces stress, saves money and promotes a good understanding of food and a taste for new culinary experiences. Who’d have thought humble mealtimes could be so significant.

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