Family dinners have long been mandatory rituals no child could ever get out of. Today however, things are different. As both parents and children have hectic and demanding schedules, family gatherings seem to have taken a back seat. It is estimated that only half of all teenagers eat with their families regularly. Yet, many studies have shown that teenagers who often have family meals exhibit fewer symptoms of depression, have better grades in school, have healthier diets, are less stressed and have less consumption problems than others.
When we do have family meals however, we should rid ourselves of one uninvited guest: television. As healthy lifestyle habits are learned at a young age, family meals are a great way to share the joy of healthy eating with our children. It is estimated that 40% of children actually eat in front of the television regularly. Unfortunately, it seems that all the benefits that come with family dinners are lost if the television is on during the meal. For example, a survey showed that the probability a child has of eating at least two fruits and three vegetables every night increases with the number of family meals he or she takes during the week. The probability of serving fruits and vegetables to children decreases with the number of nights the television is on during the family meal. Needless to say, the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables need no longer be proven.
Today’s families have fewer occasions to get together, talk and enjoy the company of siblings without being pressed for time. The family meal is a great way to stay connected, get updates on what everyone is up to each day, see how the kids are doing in school, with their friends and favourite sports. Spending time with our family to pass along healthy lifestyle habits to our children is precious. So go ahead and turn off the TV for your family dinners! Cherish family time. Learn to communicate and laugh together or dust-off the old board games. Who knows, you might come to enjoy each other’s company so much that TV will become a bit too boring for your bunch!