Surprising reasons to have a family meal time

The Importance of Family Meal Time

by Veronica Bowman

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Americans are currently experiencing the "near extinction" of a very important custom. This endangered custom is that of family meal time. It seems there are negative repercussions occurring as this tradition diminishes. There are many benefits to gathering as a family around a table at home to enjoy good food and meaningful conversation.

According to studies done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than one third of American adults are obese. Their statistics also indicate that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past thirty years. An increase in the obesity rate is connected to the increased frequency of eating unhealthy meals away from home, an increase in a sedentary lifestyle, and the amount of exposure children have to advertisements that encourage the consumption of foods and drinks with high sugar content. Reviving "family dinner time" would be a positive step toward establishing healthier eating habits. When you prepare meals at home you can:

  • control the quality of ingredients

  • control the amount of sugar and salt that goes into each dish you prepare

  • maintain greater portion control

From a cost perspective, eating at home is more frugal than eating at a chain restaurant or at a fast food location. Dining at home enables you to prepare food in a healthier manner. One of the most common excuses given for abandoning family meal time at home is that eating out is faster. For your health and for the health of your family, there are things you can do to make preparing meals at home quick, easy, and healthy.

  • Set aside some time on the weekend to pre-cut vegetables for future meals and for bag lunches.

  • Prepare large quantities of food and freeze some for quick and easy meals on days when you're experiencing a time crunch.

  • Enlist the help of your spouse and children. Extra hands can reduce the preparation time.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 49% of every food dollar is spent in restaurants. Preparing meals at home definitely qualifies as a more frugal way to feed your family. One quick internet search will reveal an abundance of frugal shopping tips to help you stay within a budget as you make plans to revive the custom of having family meals at home. There's also a wealth of healthy, budget-friendly recipes and cooking tips available to help you with the transition from drive-through to sit down meals. You can get the whole family involved in this new adventure.

  • Let each person claim a certain day as "their" day to choose the menu. This may require some parental guidance.

  • Once a week, introduce everyone to a new fruit or vegetable.

  • Keep in mind that diversity is the key to keeping meals interesting.

A budget bonus that comes with preparing meals at home is that leftovers can be used to prepare bag lunches for the following day. That will enable you to save the money you were spending at fast food locations and assure that the whole family is getting a healthy lunch.

The whole family can become more physically active if you grow some of your own vegetables. Gardening is good exercise that yields more than just edible rewards. It provides an opportunity for everyone to get outdoors, enjoy the sunshine, and get involved in some physical activity, all of which are beneficial to everyone's health.

A report by Martha Marino and Sue Butkus of Washington State University provides detailed information regarding the benefits of family meals. Among the benefits mentioned are improved communication with children, improvement in a child's school performance and better nutrition. The report also notes that children actually appreciated the dependability of family meal time.

Maybe, due to the busyness of today's family, having breakfast or dinner together every day is not a reasonable expectation. However, the custom of eating together as a family is so beneficial that striving to revive it is well worth the effort. The financial benefits are certainly a bonus during a time when many of us are pinching pennies and stretching dollars.

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