Why it’s Important to Have Family Meals, and How to Make Sure the Table is Full

Are family dinners something of the past, or is it a necessary ritual?

Credit: iStock / RonTech2000

Are family meals a thing of the past, or should they be a mandatory part of your family’s day?


When I was growing up, most of our meals took place around the kitchen table. I remember kneeling on my chair, eagerly listening to everyone’s stories, barely noticing if the spaghetti sauce had mushrooms hidden in it and always willing to try something new—as long as my older sister was eating it.


These days, gathering an entire family around the table can be a complicated affair. With mealtimes being pushed back to accommodate work or after-school activities, parents and kids often eat their meals at different times.

And this time of year—when it doesn’t even seem possible to fit everything on the schedule into an eight-day week, let alone seven—family dinners are one of the first things that many of us brush off.


How to prioritize mealtime with your family

If you’ve read parenting magazines before, you’ll know that making the effort to break bread as a family has many benefits for children. Kids absorb everything from family history, to how to participate in a conversation, to an open-minded attitude about new food when they join us at the table. And teens that eat with their families are less likely to use drugs or develop eating disorders.

Family dinner isn’t supposed to be another guilt trip for parents though (no one’s suggesting you throw together the big Sunday night roast dinner of yore on a daily basis). If you’re not sure how to fit it into your schedule, check in over at blogforfamilydinner.org.


From September 26, 2011 (Family Day, CASA) to October 24, 2011 (Food Day, CSPI), that blog will feature daily posts that explore the benefits of family dinner, while acknowledging the challenges busy families face.

If you need a few more reasons to make the effort, consider this:

  • Family dinner adds “downtime” to hectic days. It might seem like a lot of work to pull off, but the chance to sit down with your kids and talk about your day can be one of the few moments in you get to look your kids in the eye and hear how they are doing.
  • Serving one dinner for everyone saves money. Cooking meals from scratch can be faster, cheaper and healthier than take-out or delivery. Try memorizing a few 20-minute meals like stir-fry, pasta, salad or soup.
  • Eating as a family can improve the diet of picky eaters. Eating as a family helps kids develop healthy habits so that they grow to be lifelong, healthy eaters.


Do you fit family dinner into your schedule? How do you make it work?