I grew up with two very hard working parents. We lived in Southern California and their commute to and from work was brutal- about two hours each way. I got up pretty early to have a quick breakfast with my parents, and even though their commute was bad, my parents made it a priority to sit together as a family for dinner. Eventually, commutes got better, my older siblings left for college, and it was just the three of us at home. And, we still had dinner together. Looking back I realize that sitting at the table with my parents, even if it was for 20 minutes, has resulted in a healthy and happy relationship with them.
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that family meals play an important role in encouraging healthy eating habits in children and adolescents. Researchers found that positive “interpersonal dynamics”, for example, good communication, involvement in activities, and affect management (the ability to read and communicate ones emotions), at family meals could be related to lower adolescent body mass index and higher vegetable intake. What I found the most interesting was that the “test” meals were mostly 20 minutes in length and were served family style.
Our lives are busy, and sitting down for meals all at the same time can be tough. My kids are toddlers who eat as early as 5pm most days, while my husband and I end up eating dinner closer to 8pm. And, I know this is the case with many of the families in my community, where working parents get home closer to the kids bedtimes. That’s why we’re setting a goal to have “family dinner” two times per week, on days when we know my husband can get home in time to eat with us. Give it a try. If you aren’t currently having dinner as a family, pick that one day of the week you can make it happen.