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Benefits of Family Meals: Eat Together, Thrive Together

Eating family meals together goes a long way in promoting great mental and physical health for the whole family. Learn more in this article that I wrote for the American Academy of Pediatrics

By: Natalie D. Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, FACSM

Does it seem the busier your family gets, the slimmer the chances you'll see each other at dinner (or any other meal, for that matter)?

If you answered yes, don't feel guilty. Life demands a lot of everyone, your kids included—and many families find it hard to block out time for shared meals. But here's something that might motivate you to change things up: kids who eat with their families at least 3 times a week enjoy hearty physical, emotional, social and academic perks.

Read on to learn about the benefits of eating together as a family, along with practical tips to make it easier and get the most out of shared mealtime.

5 reasons to carve out time for family meals

Time spent enjoying a simple breakfast, lunch or dinner together helps you:

Introduce your kids to tasty, healthy foods

This boosts their intake of key nutrients while increasing the chances they'll pick similar foods when they're away from home. Double win!

Fuel young brains & bodies

Kids grow and develop through puberty and beyond. Amazingly, the human brain doesn't reach full maturity until we hit our mid-20s. Good eating habits matter at every age and stage – which might be one reason family meals are linked with school success.

Help everyone eat healthier & maintain a healthy weight

Families who eat together not only tend to eat more nutritious, balanced meals but they also find it easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This benefits the whole family, including children, teens, and adults who may have either a low or high body-mass index (BMI).

Enhance mental health

Shared mealtimes give you the chance to talk, express love, concern and understanding for each other. Research links family meals with healthy mental development and lower risks for childhood depression, eating disorders, substance use and other mental health concerns.

Model healthy habits

Kids who help prepare food at home can learn a lot about cooking, meal planning and the value of daily routines. Time at the table can also teach communication skills and introduce good food as one of life's greatest pleasures.

Real-world tips for successful family meals


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