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Here's Why Eating Together As A Family Is Actually Good For Your Mental And Physical Health

Here's Why Eating Together As A Family Is Actually Good For Your Mental And Physical Health

Sunday dinners are a long-lost tradition but experts tell you why it is important to bring it back. Not only does it unites family but it has cognitive, psychological and physical benefits.

Moving our lazy selves into the dining, sitting around the table with mum, dad, siblings, and grandparents for a good roast with greens, sprouts and the family's favorite mashed potato. Having silly conversations, exploding into waves of laughter while trying to annoy each other. Gone are the days when we came together as a family to celebrate our bond and love for each other over some hot dinner. Today, Sunday dinners are an ancient tradition unknown to our new generation.

According to Harvard University’s Family Dinner Project, Americans rarely have family dinners together, and missing the meaningful time they could spend with their loved ones. It also found that about 70 percent of Americans consumed food outside their homes while 20 percent had food in their cars. The Atlantic reported that the majority of American families only eat a single meal together less than five days a week. However, maybe it is time to get back to eating together and encourages families to restart the tradition.

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“Mealtime has historically been a time of family togetherness. Plus, if you’re getting multiple generations together, then there is a tapestry of diversity in terms of ages and interests and that is just so good for kids,” said Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a registered psychologist, and parenting expert to NBC News.

More than missing out on family time, not eating together has a lot of negative effects both physically and psychologically. "Oftentimes it’s underappreciated how important family meals are. Family meals are a great time to teach kids about good nutrition and good manners. They also provide a time for bonding and a time to create family memories," said Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, Ph.D., registered dietitian and former Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman to PennState Health.

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The survey conducted by the National Center On Addiction And Substance Abuse at Columbia University on the importance of family meals showed that kids who ate with their families 5 to 7 times per week did much better in school than kids who ate with their families less than 3 times a week. It was also found that teens who ate regularly with families were less likely to drink, smoke or even use illegal drugs.

Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist and co-founder of the non-profit initiative Family Dinner Project also encourages families to restart family dinner times. “The benefits range from the cognitive ones (young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school) to the physical ones (better cardiovascular health, lower obesity rates and eating more vegetables and fruits) to psychological ones (lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school),” said Fishel to NBC news.

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She also added that it's not the dinner which made a difference but the social environment. “These benefits don’t derive from a perfect roast chicken or organic tomatoes but instead from the atmosphere at the table — if there is conflict, stony silence or an intoxicated parent, these benefits do not occur. It’s critical that the atmosphere at the table be warm and inviting, that kids feel that it is safe to talk and know that someone is listening,” she said. Communal environments and good social interactions are said to have positive impacts on adults and children. It has also been proven that older adults who are involved in consistent social interactions thrive and live longer.

With hectic work schedules and busy independent lives, the whole idea of restarting Sunday family dinners might sound impossible. However, it is important to unite with family for any meal during any days in the week not necessarily Sundays. A casual dinner or breakfast plan with your loved ones away from phones will help you reap the benefits of family time. Remember a family that eats together stays together. 

References:

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/sunday-dinner-family-tradition-we-need-bring-back-ncna1001166

http://prowellness.vmhost.psu.edu/family-meals-a-time-for-health-and-happiness

https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/6-reasons-eating-family-dinner/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/the-importance-of-eating-together/374256/

https://hmc.pennstatehealth.org/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190220074610.htm

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/make-most-of-family-table

https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-research/reports/importance-of-family-dinners-2012