Family Dinners Can Be a Key Step To Healthy Kids, Families

Looking for a simple way to cutdown screen time, increase family interactions, and make healthy family choices? Try working more family dinners into your week.

“Family dinners are really important in developing relationships within the family, and really developing those good lifestyle habits that our kids are going to hopefully have for the rest of their lives,” says Nicholas Davis, MD, of Jamestown Family Medicine. “Eating at home really develops those good healthy eating habits compared to eating out or eating fast food. We tend to make better food choices and healthier food choices when we’re at home.”

Studies have shown that family dinners reduce childhood obesity rates. And, eating at least three family meals at home a week that were prepared at home has been shown to reduce the risk of eating disorders in both teens and adults. “This research has been discussed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians,” Dr. Davis says.

Studies have shown a 10 to 15 percent reduction of childhood obesity rates, and the variety of foods kids choose to eat at home is usually broader.

While eating out can be quick, the high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium foods aren’t worth the convenience.

“Eating at home can really develop those healthier food choices that hopefully kids will take with them for a lifetime,” Dr. Davis says.

Also, drinks aren’t unlimited like they often are when you eat at a restaurant. No one is providing endless soda refills, and water or milk are probably more common choices when eating at home.

Healthy Relationships

Eating a meal together at home does not mean plopping down in front of the TV with a plate on your lap. It looks different.

Enjoying a meal together as a family gives you time to disconnect from technology, put down your phones, turn off the TV, and really focus on developing your relationships.

“Show your children that you’re interested and that they can confide in you and help you know, even discuss with them their anxiety and fears,” Dr. Davis says. “We end up talking more. And even within the social aspect, you’re sharing some of your stresses. You’re talking about your days.”

Some studies have even shown spending time together as a family invested in each other can help with bullying.

Plan Ahead

Life can be chaotic – especially with kids’ school, sport, and activity schedules in the mix. Meal planning can help you find time for both your daily runaround and mealtime together.

“So, when you go grocery shopping, you kind of have an idea of what you’re going to make each night,” Dr. Davis says. “If you know that you’re going to be having a busy night later in the week, and you like something you’re having earlier in the week or the week before, you could make double and freeze it.”

He also recommends using a crock pot or an instant pot to make cooking and prep time easier and less stressful.

To learn more about family dinners, talk to your doctor or health care provider or search for a provider.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Source: Nicholas Davis, MD, Jamestown Family Medicine; Bullies: Helping Your Child Cope, Krames, 3/1/2019; Upgrade Your Approach to Kids’ Screen Time, Krames, 2/1/2019; 4 Steps for Eating Healthier, Krames, 6/1/2017; Eating Disorders, Krames, 2000-2019