As unusual as it sounds today in our fast-paced, super busy lives, family meals eaten together are fundamental to health and well-being for kids and adults. You may already know about some of these numerous benefits (listed below) from the news and evidence-based studies.

Stronger family relationships-
“Kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder. They are also more likely to delay sex and to report that their parents are proud of them.”

Improved health outcomes and reduced high-risk behaviors-
“Eating family dinners at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs other than marijuana, three times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol”.

Reduced stress-
“If you have a demanding job, finding time to eat with your family may actually leave you feeling less stressed.”

Improved financial management-
“…$8 per meal was spent outside of the home, and only about $4.50 per each meal made in your own kitchen.”

Improved food choices and eating behavior-
“Family meals eaten together were linked to increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains and other healthy food choices while also linked with lesser consumption of fried or fatty foods, soft drinks or other less healthy food choices.” “The average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal. Studies show that when we are presented with more food, we eat more food, possibly leading to our expanding waistlines.”

You may be thinking, “Who has the time to eat family meals 7 days a week?!” Let me set you at ease… Eating 1 or more family meals every day is not a realistic goal for many people. The idea is to start with a small goal from where you are today, accomplish that goal consistently for several weeks until you do not feel challenged by it, then evaluate the details of your next goal. And for those singles living alone, you too can benefit from structured meals at home. More details to come later in a different post.

Remember, any improvement from where you are today is still improvement! Celebrate the accomplishment of your goal, enjoy the benefits of your accomplishment, and keep moving forward on your path to improved health and happiness.