|A family that dines together bonds better
FOR many Canadians the term ‘family dinnertime’ is reserved solely for holidays and special occasions. Between juggling busy workdays, long commutes and hectic after-school schedules, it’s not surprising that ‘setting the table’ is often the last item on a never-ending To-Do list.
However, research shows that eating meals as a family has tremendous benefits including helping families to bond, fostering a sense of security and belonging, saving money and promoting healthier eating habits for both parents and children.
Five reasons to eat together as a family:
• Healthier eating habits and lower rates of obesity. Families that eat together eat more nutritiously packed foods such as fruits, dark-green and orange vegetables.
• Lower risk of substance abuse. Studies have found that children who enjoy frequent dinners with their family are far less likely to develop substance abuse problems later in life.
• Portion control. Both kids and adults get more satisfaction from food and are less likely to overeat if there are no distractions like television or computers during a meal.
• Improved communication. Eating together is a cultural event that allows and promotes sharing and the development of communication skills. Parents are more likely to see problems or issues than if kids were eating in their rooms or in front of the television.
• Better academic performance and selfesteem. Studies conducted at Columbia University found that teens were 40% more likely to get As and Bs in school compared to those whose families ate separately.
Five tips to help you get the family around the table:
• Make eating together a priority. That means no working late or going out with friends. At least one night a week should be an agreed-upon sacred time for the family to come and spend time together.
• Turn off the TV and the cellphone. Family night should be a time when we devote our attention to each other. For a few hours, the family becomes top priority!
• Plan ahead and involve the family. You don’t have to make meal time complicated. Keep it simple and easy to prepare. Don’t spend hours in the kitchen. Spend time chatting and laughing together. Getting the family to lend a hand in the kitchen will also teach the kids life skills.
• Have fun! Don’t use this time to resolve problems and arguments or to remind kids of chores and things to do. Create an upbeat, positive atmosphere that encourages conversation. Everyone can take turns choosing music to play in the background. Leave the dishes on the counter and play together!
• Eat outside the box. Take the time to cook nutritious dishes that include items from all the food groups. Go ahead, try new things! Experiment with foods from around the world and take this opportunity to introduce kids to other cultures.
Friday Night is Family Night. With more double income households, ‘quality time’ is often spent in front of the television. In fact, a recent Omnibus survey revealed that almost half of Canadians (44%) don’t have a night reserved for family, with 45% admitting that the most common activity was ‘watching a movie.’ The end of the work week is a great time to get creative and have fun with the family.
• Lianne Phillipson-Webb is the founder and Mommy Chef teacher for Sprout Right (www.sproutright.com), a Toronto based nutrition and cooking school that teaches moms how to build and maintain healthy eating practices for them and their children. She is also a Registered Nutrition Consultant Practitioner and a member of the International Organization of Nutrition Consultants.