I am now in my 40s and I remember a time when families routinely ate dinner together at home. Almost seems like an outdated concept now but I am here to tell you, families need to make this a routine practice, even it means eating at 9:00 pm (which my family often does). Have you ever heard that a family who eats together, stays together? Well actually, I believe the proper saying is a family who prays together, stays together, but you know what, the change actually makes sense. Eating dinner together at home offers a family a powerful way to improve physical and mental health, academic and work performance, and strengthen the family’s connection with one another. Let me explain….
Eating together results in healthier foods. This probably comes as no surprise but families who eat dinners at home typically eat meals that are more nutritious. Roughly 97% of meals purchased for children in restaurants in the U.S. fail to meet dietary standards, and on average have 60% more calories than home-cooked meals. Families are also more likely to request additional helpings of fruits and vegetables, and less likely to eat fried foods. According to a BYU study, when kids are repeatedly exposed to trying new things (which is often easier to do at home), there is greater success in developing a liking for different foods, particularly healthier foods. The result is a healthier family.
Eating together reduces stress. Did you know that the average American eats 20% of his or her meals in the car and 25% of Americans eat one fast food meal a day? I once heard that McDonald’s feeds 1 out of 10 Americans in any particular day. Americans also work 200 more hours a year than the average French citizen (that works out to be about 8 hours less a week). In a study by IBM, their employees who took time to eat dinner with their families at home reported less stress.
Eating together helps improve academics. Less than 10% of kids who have a schedule of eating regularly with their families show poor performance at school. This is assuming they are also putting in the time to study and do their homework. In fact, some experts claim dinner as a family is a better indicator of academic performance than extracurricular activities, homework, or even hours spent at school. The reason behind this in my opinion is that if a child is eating regularly with his or her parents or parent, this typically means they are also getting mentoring, support and encouragement at home.
Eating together saves money. Eating out may save time but if optimizing your dollars matters, then there is no question, you save money by eating at home. I recently heard that the average cost of a home-cooked meal is almost half the cost of eating at a restaurant. Now if you are into eating a filet mignon steak every night, this might change the calculation a bit.
Eating together shapes your family’s destiny. This may blow your mind: eating meals together at home may reduce high-risk behavior in your family more than church attendance. Hold on, I am not trying to put pastors out of a job, or suggest attending church is not important (which it is), all I am trying to do is highlight how important it is to be a good steward of your family throughout the week, not just if you attend church together for an hour. The reason why I believe eating dinners together is so important is that it is probably one of the best ways to have consistent opportunities to shape and speak into the lives of your family. Ultimately, the meal is not the focus (although it helps) but providing a safe and loving environment where every member of the family feels loved and accepted, is what really matters. It is the time to share struggles and victories. It is also the time to receive praise and encouragement. And you know what, the time where this can happen, is at the dinner table.