When I was a child, I thought the calendar year started with September. It was all about the beginning of the school year, the changing season and the faster pace. Regardless of whether you have children at home, schedules become full and we tend to get back to a more structured lifestyle. In fact, we need structure to deal with committee meetings, after-school events and deadlines at work. One of the “structures” we put in place is dinner together. Even when I was a single young adult, the act of preparing dinner, setting a place at my table and enjoying my dinner seemed to bring balance to my day. It makes sense that September is National Family Meals Month™, created to encourage and educate Americans about the rewards of cooking at home and gathering at the family dinner table.
Growing up, eating dinner together was sacrosanct. Nonnegotiable. We also rarely ate out, either at a restaurant or <gasp!> a fast-food joint, and we never ate in front of the TV. Dinner was a time for us to share about our day, learn what was happening in the world, analyze yesterday’s field hockey game.
As a parent, I work hard to ensure that we maintain this structure despite the growing number of evening activities. Of course, not every supper is idyllic, but it’s an opportunity to learn how to resolve conflict, what matters to one other, and negotiating skills.
Join us in “Raising a Mitt” and committing to make one more meal each week at home!
Nine reasons to make family meals at home:
- People who home-cook meals eat healthier, and consume about 130 fewer calories daily, compared to people who cook less or not at all.
- Benefits of sharing three or more family mealtimes per week include reducing the odds for being overweight (12%), eating unhealthy foods (20%), and disordered eating (35%), and increasing the odds for eating healthy foods (24%).
- Adults and children who eat at home more regularly are less likely to suffer from obesity.
- Children who grow up sharing family meals are more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior as adults, such as sharing, fairness and respect.
- Teens who eat dinner with their parents regularly develop better relationships with them, do better in school, and are less likely to use drugs, drink or smoke.
- Studies have shown that from the earliest days of history, shared meals have been essential for family bonding and child development.
- Cooking and eating together can teach children about food sustainability, nutrition and cost of living.
- Children (and adults) are reminded of good manners. Please, thank you, and waiting until everyone is served are a few of the important courtesies that will be important the rest of their lives.
- Practicing the art of conversation. In a time of increasing dependence on technology for communication, put down devices and talk with each other. Learning to listen well is as important as learning to respectfully challenge others’ ideas. Laugh together over funny events of the day.