The Importance of Family Mealtime

Sitting down for a family meal provides more than just good nutrition. It can provide real quality time for the entire household.

When it comes to our children’s nutrition, we usually think more about what our kids are eating than how they’re eating it. In other words, dining together as a family has become a bit of a lost art, which is too bad according to Anne Lindsay, author of Anne Lindsay’s Light Kitchen. That’s because she feels children have a lot to gain from family mealtimes. “Just as important as what children are eating is the way they are eating, ” explains Lindsay. “I think it’s extremely important that a family sits down around a table, has their meal together rather than on the go. When you eat together you enjoy the family, find out what everyone’s done that day and children also learn table manners and pick up your values. It’s where families can enjoy time together.”

Judith Toews, nutritionist and co-author of Raising Happy Healthy Weight Wise Kids agrees. “When parents and children eat together, they’re not only more likely to enjoy a healthy variety of foods, but they’re also more likely to talk together and that makes such a difference to kids health and happiness. Families are so busy these days that sometimes a meal together means picking up something at the drive through on the way to a soccer game. If families aren’t sitting down and eating together, they’re less likely to know what’s happening with each other.”

But keep in mind, sitting down for a family meal can be a pretty tough call for the very young child, says Lindsey. “I think it’s important to recognize at what age children can sit at the table and enjoy a meal with parents. A two year old who doesn’t want to sit still for more than five minutes can’t be expected to sit for half an hour at a dinner table. But by the time they are five, children should be able to sit at the table and start to learn good table manners.”

Still most of us would readily admit that family mealtimes seem like a tall order. But Toews says we can make them work if we’re willing to be a little more flexible. “I think when it comes to a family meal, we should think of people first and food as secondary. If we put the emphasis on how we can manage time together, perhaps by being flexible with the time dinner will be at, it can make a tremendous difference. It’s sad to say that a lot of kids are coming home and popping a meal into the microwave and then going into their rooms to eat it without ever getting a chance to interact with their parents.”


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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