Feeding the family

Eating together is good for you!

The great news is that sharing a meal is good for general well-being and happiness, as well as your brain and the health of all.

Families that eat regular meals together have children with greater self-esteem, and lower rates of unhealthy eating, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression*. Regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.

What else can families – and friends – do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?

Whether with family or friends, have a go at these:
1Try to make it a goal to have regular family meals or meals with friends at least three times per week. Remember the benefits – the simple act of regular mealtimes provides all with comfort and your children with stability. Eat the same food – just mash it up for younger children.
2Involve everyone in the preparation of meals, especially your children, appropriate to age.

3It’s quality time so turn off the TV and phones. Have a proper conversation. Talk about your day, school, friends, goals, wishes, dreams etc. Have a stock of regular questions like ‘What was your favourite part of today?’. Connecting with each other and your children is good for you (Musick & Meier 2011).
4Get a Bake Off going. Learn to enjoy food preparation and pass that on!
5Eat real food. Try and eat food that comes from the land, sea or air. If you use packets or fast food – check that the ingredients are things you recognise.

*in addition to the positive impact on mental health, if you eat at least three meals together each week, your children may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight (Hammons & Fiese, 2011).

More information from Valeria Skafida and edited by Kirsten Thomlinson and Sarah Morton which came out of a briefing ‘An Appetite for Life’ some research into the benefit of family meals for the Centre for Research and Family Relationships (CRFR) Edinburgh 2012. See what the Guardian wrote about children’s healthy snacks.

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