Fortunately, research has shown that taking time out of your day to tune out distractions and to genuinely connect with others over a meal can have resounding benefits for you and your loved ones. Meal kit delivery services can take the hassle out of meal planning and prep, and have emerged as a time-saving, healthy alternative to eating out.
These are the top 10 reasons why eating together helps you stay healthier and can promote healthy eating habits for you and your family.
1. Homemade food is healthier
Take-out and fast food are loaded with unhealthy fats, overly-processed carbohydrates, and provide an excess of calories making them far less healthy than foods cooked at home. A home-cooked meal will generally provide nutrient-rich foods that contain iron, fiber, and calcium all of which support your family’s health and development.
Research shows that eating home-cooked meals has been linked to improved dietary quality, increased fruit and vegetable intake, and lower body fat. Many meal delivery services like Hello Fresh will cater to your nutritional needs whether that be low calorie, vegetarian, or dairy-free making it a nice option for busy families looking for healthy, convenient, and homemade meals.
2. Eating together can help prevent overweight and obesity
A home-cooked meal, which tends to include more fruits, vegetables, calcium, and whole grains, may be protective against overweight and obesity. One study looked at whether having family meals as an adolescent can protect against becoming overweight or obese 10 years later as a young adult.
Researchers found that even having as few as 1-2 family meals a week during adolescence, was significantly associated with fewer incidences of overweight or obesity at the 10-year follow-up compared with those reporting never having had family meals during adolescence.
Additionally, children that eat with their family can be exposed to parental modeling of healthy eating behaviors. Eating meals with family is associated with a healthier diet, especially among teens. Teens who eat their meals with family are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce their intake of fast food, and drink less sugary drinks like soda.
If your busy schedule prevents you from preparing your own meals, these pre-prepared food delivery services can help. They offer a variety of customized meal plans that cater to different nutritional needs.
3. Eating alone can be isolating
Eating together can promote a sense of unity and connectedness. Sharing a meal allows you to step away from the busyness of the day, decompress, and de-stress. Eating alone may increase the likelihood of skipping meals which can lead to decreased energy and can compromise your nutritional health.
Moreover, people who eat most of their meals alone may be at increased risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Studies show that men who eat alone at least twice a day are more likely to have metabolic syndrome compared to those who always ate with others. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of three or more risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and prediabetes.
4. Family meals can strengthen family relationships
Eating together provides opportunities to further maintain relationships and offers children a sense of belonging where they can experience love, safety, and security. Family meals are also a nice opportunity to teach children about nutrition, healthy eating habits, and social etiquette.
Older children, including most teenagers, will also benefit from eating together as a family. Family meals provide an opportunity for teens to disconnect from their screens and reconnect with the people who love and support them the most.
5. Eating together saves time and money
You can definitely stretch your food budget further when making large family meals rather than buying individual restaurant meals. Additionally, cooking extra meals to use as leftovers for lunch and dinner can save loads of time and money.
Even prepping for a home-cooked meal, eating, and cleaning up is generally faster than driving to a restaurant, ordering, eating, and driving home. With options like EveryPlate, designed for busy, budget-conscious families, you can enjoy a family meal that takes less than 30 minutes to make for $4.99 per person.
6. Eating together leads to better grades
Young children can learn even more new words through dinner conversation than they do from reading aloud. Words that young children don’t typically know and hear often show up in dinner conversation making this time a wonderful vocabulary-builder for your little one.
This type of word exposure can help set the stage for school success later in life. As for older children and teens, one study investigated the link between the frequency of family meals and child academic outcomes.
Researchers found that older children who have between five and seven family dinners per week were twice as likely to report receiving mostly A’s and B’s in school, compared to children who have fewer than three family dinners per week.
7. Eating together leads to positive emotions
When you eat with others your body is inundated with positive hormones and emotions making it a great way to boost your mood. Having a strong social network can help support your mental health. One way to reinforce and strengthen that social network is by sharing a meal with family and friends.
People who eat with others are more likely to feel better about themselves and have a broader social network that can provide social and emotional support when needed. Moreover, researchers have found that the more often people eat with others the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.
Having frequent family meals is also associated with better mental health for both parents compared with parents who rarely eat meals together. Parents who frequently dine with their kids have higher levels of family functioning, greater self-esteem, and lower levels of depression and stress.
8. Sharing meals with others can lead to healthy eating habits
Eating with others is associated with healthy dietary food patterns, and not just for children. When adults eat together they tend to chat, forcing them to eat more slowly. By taking your time and eating more slowly, you’ll likely wind up eating less than you would if you were on your own. When dining in a group, adults tend to make better food choices, gravitating towards healthier foods like salads, grilled fish and chicken, and fruit.
9. Family meals may help kids avoid risky behaviors
Family meals can give you and your teen an opportunity to discuss feelings, fears, and ideas, thus further enhancing your familial bond. Additionally, family meals provide an opportunity for parents to have a better idea of issues with school and friends, which, in turn, will give them more insight into the daily lives of their children.
One review found that frequent family dinners can help prevent issues with alcohol and substance use, eating disorders, violent behavior, depression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents. Researchers noted that adolescent girls were particularly likely to benefit from the support a family meal provides.
10. Eating together strengthens communities
Since the beginning of time, gathering, preparing, and sharing food has played a vital role in community-building. Whether it’s dining with family, friends, or co-workers, tuning out the noise of the day and connecting is one of the best ways to bring people together. Sharing meals with others allows for the exchange of ideas which can increase collaboration and teamwork.
Enjoying Meal Times Together for a Healthier You
Mealtime offers a rare moment to step away from your ever-growing to-do lists, emails, and video calls to connect face-to-face with the people you love. It’s during this time that you and your family can share some laughs, decompress, review the day, and plan for tomorrow.
For children, having frequent family meals can increase their vocabulary, improve their grades, help lower their rates of depression, and can help prevent issues with alcohol, substance use, and eating disorders. For parents, the family dinner can help destress, promote greater self-esteem, and lower levels of depression.
If the idea of planning, shopping, and cooking feels too exhausting, there are a variety of convenient meal kit delivery services so you can reap all of the benefits of the family dinner without the hassle.