The benefits of family meals
Enjoying at least one family meal together a day is recommended. It has been shown that children who have more family meals tend to consume more nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products (hyperlink to ‘What does eat nutritious and varied options mean’). Certain foods are not nutritious and family meals have been shown to be one way to reduce the consumption of such foods, simply by not offering them. Many countries are dealing with the growing problem of obesity and overweight in children, and not partaking in family meals has been shown to increase the likelihood of a child carrying extra weight and body fat.
To get the best and most out of a family meal, ensure that you all sit around a table – be it a kitchen or a dining table. Get rid of distractions, including cell phones, the daily newspaper and the television. If possible, set mealtimes so that all family members are aware that it is lunchtime or dinner time and can plan their day accordingly to minimise interruptions. Make a habit of setting the table in a way that will beautifully showcase the food and encourage everyone’s participation in dishing out the wide variety of nutritious food available. As a parent, you need to be a model of good behaviour in your food choices, portion sizes and attitude towards food during the family meal.
The benefits of family meals go beyond nourishing the body. It also impacts a child’s psychological well-being. You can use mealtimes to talk about the day your child had in the classroom, the time spent during sports, their extracurricular activities, and life in general. In this way, children learn to better express themselves, to receive encouragement and support in dealing with setbacks, and to celebrate their triumphs. Family meals are a time for sharing nutritious meals, good conversation, and creating a general feeling of togetherness.