When we were in Utah last week for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Deseret News had an excellent article entitled: It's Time for Dinner (with family) by Carolyn Campbell . I would suggest that you click onto the link and read the whole article.
So why eat together?
Eating a family meal creates an environment that fosters conversation. During dinner, the family has the opportunity to spend time together, author Janet Peterson says.
"Because they are sitting down together at the table, looking across at each other, it is a level playing field, with the parents not standing taller than the children, which creates a more relaxed atmosphere," she says.
"Restaurants are in the business to make money," Peterson said. "Their labors, real estate and profit margin all cost. If they don't make money, they don't stay in business." She says if you multiply the average of $812 spent annually per person on eating out, it doesn't take a CPA to tell you that it's costly, especially for a family with children.
"Restaurant prices in recent years have risen slightly faster than inflation, making it even more expensive to eat away from home," Peterson says.
A study published in the British Archives of Family Medicine found that having a family dinner was not only associated with a healthier way of eating, but also had a positive effect on the family's physical and emotional health.
The study reported that those who ate dinner with their families were more likely to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. The home-cooked meal is more likely to contain a variety of food groups. Milk or water is more likely to be served, and less soda pop or high fat foods are typically offered.
Commercially prepared foods are notoriously high in sugar, starch and fat, although some restaurants do list low-fat items on their menus, says Peterson. She adds that home cooking allows a family to select healthful ingredients, tailor meals to suit their own particular nutritional needs and tastes, serve portions appropriate to age and activity level, and monitor methods of preparation.
We also eat more when we eat out.
"Everything is super-sized," Peterson says. "Restaurant portions continue to increase. The usual restaurant plate used to be 10 inches in diameter and now it is 12 inches."
Preschool children who eat with the family have better language skills, according to the Rockford Clinic. Dinner-time conversation exposes them to a broader vocabulary, especially as they listen to adults and older children. Eating together as a family can teach good communications skills, such as listening patiently and expressing one's opinion in a respectful manner.
According to researchers at the University of Illinois, children age 7-11 who did well on school achievement tests ate the majority of their meals and snacks with their families.
One study points out how family dinners are strong preventative medicine. Joseph A. Califano Jr., president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, reported: "Intensive research and teen surveys have consistently revealed that the more often children eat dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs."
Food served at the family table helps shape and give lasting meaning to our cultural heritage, says Katherine Carson, associate professor of food science at Pennsylvania State College.
"Positive food memories created during childhood are cherished for life," she says.
Peterson adds that food provides a connection among families.