There's a power in food that brings people together.
In a recent study published in the journal of Physiology and Behavior, scientists found that people who eat together tend to get along better.
The study noted that when discussions were carried out over meals, individuals were more likely to feel friendly, listen, give compliments and make compromises. Participants said that having a meal with another made them feel warmer and more likeable.
The research holds implications for the American family. In today’s busy world, where family members are dashing from one activity to another, family mealtime can easily be neglected.
Although 86 percent of American families say they still have family dinner at least once per week, an alarming 59 percent of Americans say that they have fewer family dinners today than when they were growing up.
It isn’t easy to rally the troops and get an entire family together for an evening meal — but such efforts can reap many benefits. Here are five:
Family meals foster communication
As a child grows from toddler to teen, communication between parent and child can become strained. Research from LiveScience found that kids who frequently ate dinner with mom and dad while in sixth grade had better communication habits with their parents over the next three-and-a-half years than children who did not.
Talking with your kids doesn’t need to be awkward, either. Ask them to tell you about their day. What was the best or worst part? Have them tell you what they’re looking forward to for the weekend. Then, take time to listen.
Family meals encourage healthy eating
Planning, preparing and eating as a family allows parents to control what their children put into their bodies. Kids who regularly eat family dinners will get a healthier dose of fruits, vegetables and essential nutrients. They’re also likely to have fewer fried foods and sugar-laden beverages.
Further research indicates that young teenagers who eat family dinners regularly are less likely to be obese when they move out and live on their own.
Family meals make your smarter
Do you want your child to be the brightest kid on the block? It starts with a dinnertime discussion. Researchers have found that conversations that occur during mealtime can boost a child’s vocabulary even more than reading aloud to them.
Other research indicates that teenagers who participated in regular family dinners were twice as likely to get A’s in school as opposed to kids who weren’t having regular family meals together.
Family meals save money
How much are Americans spending on fast food? According to a report from The Simple Dollar, the average American spends $232 per month on commercially prepared food. If you calculate that out for an entire year, most Americans are spending close to $3,000 on fast food per year.
This isn’t to say you should never eat out; there are times when the only way you’ll have time to eat is by grabbing a burger or ordering a pizza. However, being aware of how much you’re spending on fast food can help you make smarter decisions about when to eat out and when to cook at home.
Family meals relieve stress
For mothers who are employed, the best place for relaxation might not be the spa, but the dinner table. According to a study from Brigham Young University, sitting down to dinner at home with family helped working moms find relief from the tension and stress of a long day’s work.
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