‘A family that eats together ………' If we ask you to complete this statement, then one of the obvious replies would be 'stays together'. But, the matter of fact is that the modern-day research has found various ways to fill this gap reflecting the advantages of eating together as a family. So, this time, in health bytes let us see in how many ways this adage can be completed.
A FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER TENDS TO BE HEALTHIER
One of the biggest advantages of eating as a family is the exposure to healthy eating. It has been observed through studies that when people eat together in a family they generally consume more nutritious food. One eats vegetables and fruits in good amounts, takes more milk and dairy products. Moreover, collective eating serves as a good means of going for fruits and vegetarian food from non-vegetarian diet pattern.
For children and teens the health benefits are manifold. In the Journal of Adolescent Health, a study was published in May 2003 which revealed that teenagers who ate dinner with their parents were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables. In another research, it was found that children and teens who took family meals with their parents had greater intake of body building nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, folate, fiber, and vitamins B-6, B-12, C, and E. Since home made food is prepared with proper oils and salts, therefore, adults and children consume less saturated and trans fat which are the leading factors of obesity.
To find out more on family eating and obesity problems, researchers at Rutgers evaluated results from 68 previously published scientific reports and suggested that the risk of weight gain is less in such families. Another research in 2005 examined nearly 8,550 of U. S. children who were 4 years old. They focused at finding the obesity levels among the children. Their results showed that in those children who weren't exposed to family meals, the obesity rate rose up to nearly 25 percent. They also distinctively analysed on how the atmosphere of family meals was related to the consumption of both healthy food (e.g., fruits and vegetables) and less-desirable food (e.g., soft drinks). They found that eating together had a wealth of health benefits.
Another interesting fact of family meals is that it teaches everyone to develop and try the taste of new food without forceful attempts to eat. New variety of food when introduced takes 8-10 exposures before getting accepted. And, while eating in groups this acceptance comes easily. Therefore, with family meals, the range of liked food products gets wider. Therefore, introduce new food during family mealtime with some of the stand-by favourites which can:
- Comprise of vegetarian food from other cultures and countries.
- Have some different vegetables from daily liking.
- Have new recipes from cookbooks, websites, newspapers and magazines.
A FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER HAS HAPPIER AND BRIGHTER CHILDREN
Beyond nutritional benefits, it has now been found that children and teens who eat together with their families are more likely to score better grades in schools, have a decent thought process, have a good vocabulary, are less depressed, have lower rates of substance abuse and teen pregnancy, and are less likely to indulge in bad habits like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and marijuana. Over the past 15 years, researchers have verified what parents have been aware of for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members and they contribute more to the welfare of society.
A FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER PRESERVES ITS CULTURAL VALUES AND LIVES WITH A STRONG RELATIONSHIP BONDING
Today's youth is drifting from their cultural values. Thanks to busy schedules and hectic work-life due to which the trend of having family meals is nowadays coming to an end. But, in order to re-live our culture we have to be together. It has now been proved that family meals impart positive values and infuse motivation in teens and adults. Children who eat dinner with their family understand their limits and follow the codes of conduct of living in a family. In his research paper that was published in the year 2005, Weinstein included a statement that family meals are a representation of the ethical, cultural, or religious heritage of a family. A study from Emory University found that 'children who knew a lot about their family history, through family meals and other interactions, had a closer relationship with their family members, carried a higher self esteem and a greater sense of control over their own lives' (Duke, Fivush, Lazarus, & Bohanek, 2003).Further, by the means of eating together, children get a sense of security and togetherness. Regular family meals provide chances for the family to develop a better mode of communication. 'As children participate in these cultural traditions, they begin to learn more about their heritage and their family's history. In a recent study done by Columbia University, 71% of teenagers said they consider talking/catching-up, and spending time with family members as the best part of family dinners' (CASA, 2011).
A FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER HELPS IN SAVING THE MONEY EARNED
This is last but not the least. The meals prepared at home are cost-efficient. Thus, it makes our expense chart a little lighter as compared to the food purchased from outlets, which is usually two to four times costlier, that too with less nutritional content.
So, bring your family together during the meal times and relish the health and wealth benefits of eating together. Also, here are some points as to how to get the whole family together in the meal-slots:
- Schedule a shared family meal at a priority by making time table of the entire day, keeping in view the work-timings of each family member. Everyone should know when dinner is served and should try to be at home by that time.
- In case regular practice of eating together does not exist in a family, then, one can start with small steps. In the beginning, the habit can be developed by scheduling family meals two or three days per week. Thereafter, slowly increasing the frequency, it can be made as a regular practice to have meals together.
- Develop the time slot of taking family meals into the moments of fun and relaxation for everyone.
- The flavour of humour must not go missing while at the dinner table.
- Say no to TV and phone calls during eating time.
- At the dining table, the conversations must be limited to positive or neutral topics. There should be no criticism for one another. One should develop an environment that leads to a healthy communication.
- Be a good role model. The children should be able to grasp from you good etiquettes and table manners.
- Develop the habit of eating slowly. Besides health benefits, remember, eating together is an opportunity for the family to spend time together. It's not just about having food; it's about strengthening the bonds of the family.