The Power of Family Dinners
It's no secret that teens are more susceptible to the influence of their peers than adults. But have you ever thought about how much of an impact you can have on your teen's behavior just by spending time with them?
Modern life is so hectic that eating together as a family is increasingly unusual. It can be challenging to find a time that works for both parents and kids to sit down and eat together. Nonetheless, eating together as a family has many positive effects, notably on the well-being of children and teenagers.
Several studies spanning more than three decades have found that eating together as a family has positive effects on health, relationships, and performance in school. Although some of these advantages can be achieved through other means, dining together is the only known activity that provides all of them simultaneously.
Family meals are a wonderful method to encourage teenagers to live healthy lifestyles. They help promote healthy eating habits and provide a way for families to connect without the distractions of technology.
According to research, families that sit down together for meals regularly encourage their children to eat healthier foods and are less likely to participate in risky behaviors. I talk more about this on my podcast, you can listen here : lifestyleforteens.com/7
My purpose in writing this blog is to discuss the value of family dinners and their significance. However, for my valued readers, I am also including some tips for making family meals a regular part of your family's routine.
Importance of Eating Together as a Family
As a society, we have come to recognize the value of sharing meals as a family. It's a fantastic opportunity to bond with others and create lasting memories. What you might not know is that it's also a great approach to encourage your adolescent to adopt a lifelong pattern of good eating.
A healthy family meal is one of the most important things you can do for your child’s health and well-being. As a bonus, it may help you bond with your kids while teaching them to make healthy food choices on their own. Moreover, a parent can always lead by example —by eating well and modeling healthy behaviors.
There is evidence to show that having family dinners at least three times a week is beneficial to kids' growth and development. Studies have found that having regular family dinners is associated with improved academic performance, decreased body mass index, and a decreased likelihood of substance misuse and eating disorders.
There are many benefits to having meals together as a family, including:
1. More Healthy Choices
A meta-analysis found that adolescents who regularly participated in family dinners were 24% more likely to consume fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods. They are also less likely to regularly consume high-calorie, low-nutrient meals like fast food, soft drinks, and confectionery.
2. Improve Communication Skills
Teenagers can gain valuable communication, sociability, and problem-solving skills via regular family dinners. Teenagers develop their communication, listening, and conflict-resolution skills via open, honest dialogue with their loved ones.
3. Prevent Mental Health Issues
Family dinners do more than only encourage good nutrition and interpersonal bonds inside the household. Teens who eat supper together as a family regularly report feeling closer to their parents and siblings. They have a stronger sense of family identity and are less prone to experience stress and depression.
4. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Journal of Pediatrics research indicated that eating together as a family regularly throughout adolescence is associated with lower risks of obesity or weight problems 10 years later, especially among Black adolescents. The research found that having at least one or two family dinners together every week reduced the risk of childhood obesity.
5. Less disordered eating
Eating together as a family is linked to less disordered eating among teens, including 35% less binging and purging and fewer instances of dieting or skipping meals.
Tips for Eating Together to Promote a Healthy Lifestyle in Teens
Engaging in traditional family activities like playing together, playing instruments, or sewing tapestries has become increasingly uncommon in modern industrialized nations. Hence, having dinner together is the best method for families to catch up and talk about their days.
When asked when they were most likely to communicate with their parents, American adolescents ranked supper as the top family time.
Children who regularly participate in family dinners report lower levels of stress and a more positive relationship with their parents. This regular interaction is like a safety belt for the bumpy ride of childhood and adolescence, with all its opportunities for potentially harmful behavior.
It takes work to make family dinners a regular occurrence, but the rewards are well worth it.
Here are some tips for ensuring that your family dinners are a success:
1. Set up a schedule
Setting up a regular time each week, like Sunday or Monday night, for family dinners is the easiest approach to making it a regular occurrence. In this manner, you and your loved ones may establish weekly arrangements at 7:00 p.m. without giving it a second thought.
2. Get everyone to help with the cooking
If you're not a fantastic cook, having everyone chip in to do a little something can make dinner more enjoyable for everyone and may even encourage them to try something new. If your children are old enough, teach them how to cut vegetables or mix batter; if they are under five, find methods for them to participate without getting in the way: Include kids in every step of the cooking process by asking for their input on everything from the type of salad dressing to use with this salad to the toppings they think would go well on pizza tonight.
3. Cook up some laughs for the table
Although it's essential to provide tasty cuisine for family meals, it's just as vital to set a joyful and enjoyable mood. Tell a joke or share a funny comment to lighten the mood at the beginning of the dinner.
4. Get creative
When cooking together, a little creativity goes a long way in both discovering new favorites and keeping old ones fresh after repeated usage.
5. Keep the conversation moving
Even though it's easy to zone out and eat meals quietly, family dinners are great times to talk and catch up with loved ones. Take care to hear what your kids have to say, and express your interest by asking clarifying questions or lending your support.
The simple act of sharing a meal as a family may have profound effects on everyone involved. The purpose of a family meal is to spend quality time together as a group. Dinner might be as simple as grilled cheese and tomato soup, or as elaborate as lasagna. The objective is for everyone to sit down together, eat, and deepen their bonds by discussing their day or recalling fond memories.
In conclusion, eating together as a family are a great way to promote healthy eating habits among teens. Not only can you ensure that your teen is getting the nutrition they need, but you can also help them learn about healthy food choices and what foods are in season.
I hope that this blog has shown you some ways to make family mealtime easier and more fun, so you can get the most out of the time you spend together as a unit.
And if you are looking for easy and healthy recipes for teens that are high in protein, here is a collection of 30 recipes I put together, which you can crab for free :
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All the best,
Jenny Gourgari, MD