Reconnecting: The Importance of Family Meals
With more activities, more commitments, and limited time, family mealtime has significantly declined over the last 30 years despite the impressive benefits of sitting together as a group and preparing meals together. Family meals allow parents and children to reconnect socially and focus on preparing healthy, nutritious foods. Studies show the benefits of family mealtimes include:
- Higher self-esteem.
- Maintenance of normal body weight.
- Healthy eating patterns.
- Less disordered eating habits.
- Lower risk of depression and substance abuse for children.
Generational health is a term for how family history, genetics, and behaviors affect future family members and the next generation within the family. Although genetics can significantly contribute to the likelihood of disease, we control the food we put in our bodies and the health habits we choose that can counteract these conditions. When parents and caregivers model healthy eating habits and behaviors, it becomes habitual within families to promote physical, mental, and social well-being. Specific foods, recipes, behaviors, and coming together as a community is the foundation of many cultures and family traditions.
Finding a Solution
According to the CDC, between 2017-2020, 14.7 million children and adolescents between the ages of 2-19 years old were affected by childhood obesity. Understanding the prevalence of the childhood obesity epidemic and how to counteract this issue is key to determining the solution. When families enjoy at least three family meals per week together, benefits include a 12% reduction in the odds of being overweight, a 20% reduction in eating unhealthy foods, and a 35% reduction in disordered eating habits, in addition to an increase in eating healthy foods by 24%. Family meals do not need to be extravagant or labor-intensive to reap the benefits. Utilizing options such as the family meal kits or buying a few simple, fresh ingredients can provide the same benefits.
Nutrition for Longevity’s family meal kits provides three nutritious meals for a quick, healthy alternative to cooking during those busy work weeks. The meals provided are well-rounded, offering high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and fresh vegetables to meet the needs of everyone in the family. By utilizing the family meal kits, families can spend more time together and embrace the social connection and benefit of family mealtime.
Family Eating Habits
Although creating “good eaters” may feel daunting to parents, starting with the basics is best. Modeling your behaviors as caregivers is a priority; the best time to do this is when sitting down for a meal as a family. When children see their parents enjoying a variety of nutritious, healthy foods, it encourages them to make better choices. Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” and discuss why different nutrients are essential and what they do to your body. An example would be – “meat is a protein which is important for building strong muscles” or “fruits and vegetables give you vitamins like Vitamin C to keep your immune system strong.” Learning about different foods together and trying new things as a family can be fun and keeps things interesting.
Family meal kits are a fantastic base to initiate weekly meals together, adding in some home-cooked family favorites or new fun recipes as time allows for the remainder of the week. Encourage your child to participate in the menu planning process by taking trips to the grocery store together, gathering the ingredients, and preparing the meal as a family. Fast and easy recipes with one to two new ingredients are a great place to start. This can ensure that your child will be willing to try new things and allow parents and children to spend more quality time together as a family for a common purpose.