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Family Meals Matter!


Family enjoying dinner

According to the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, there are great benefits to enjoy when families eat meals together. Did you know when families eat meals together the meals tend to be more nutritious? But there are other great benefits for kids and teens: better grades; better moods; less depression and thoughts about suicide; less tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use; and less disordered eating habits, a greater acceptance for fruits and vegetables, and less obesity.

It's simple to get these long-term benefits for you and your family. Eat meals together at the same table, without the television on (even in the background) or other electronic devices and distractions. Use this time to make meals and memories together.

Why is this simple task so beneficial? It's about having a conversation and connecting. When families come together and share a meal, conversations tend to be longer so more rare words are introduced to kids and teens and vocabularies improve. Longer conversations allow young people to process new concepts and ideas, and ask questions. More frequent family meals offer routine and consistency for all family members. Family meals provide time to socialize youth and role model good communication skills and manners.

So give this great vehicle for connecting families a try. The more frequent the meals shared the better. Start by aiming to cook more meals at home. Work with your family to develop a week's plan for dinner meals and then make a shopping list together. One great resource to help you is the "Thinking Outside the Box," dietitian-approved, quick meal solutions. For the time it takes to go through a drive-thru, your family can have a more nutritious and tasty meal. Just be sure to fill half your plates with fruits and vegetables.

Colleen Kesselring is a dietitian and program analyst with the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).


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