Family Meals spell SUCCESS

S = Smarter Children:

  • Improved vocabularies and reading skills

A study by Dr. Catherine Snow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, followed 65 families over 15 years, looking at how mealtime conversations play a critical role in language acquisition in young children. The conversations that occur around the family table teach children more vocabulary and forms of discourse than they learn when you read to them. Improved vocabularies lead to better readers. Better readers do better in all school subjects.

  • Improved achievement test scores

A University of Illinois study of 120 boys and girls age 7 – 11 found that children who did well in school and on achievement tests were those who generally spent large amounts
of time eating meals with their families.

  • Greater academic achievement

A Reader’s Digest survey of more than 2,000 high-school seniors compared academic achievement with family characteristics. Eating meals with their family was a stronger predictor of academic success than whether they lived with one or both parents. Share that with families who may not have money or education or a spouse, but do have it in
their power to eat with their kids!

  • Higher grades

Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), and others, has found a striking relationship between frequency of family meals and grades. In 2003, the percent of teens who got A’s was 20% of those who ate with their families 5 or more times per week compared to only 12% of those who ate with their families 2 or less times per week.

U = Unlikely to smoke, drink, or take drugs:

  • In a research project coordinated by Dr. Blake Bowden of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, 527 teenagers were studied to determine what family and lifestyle characteristics were related to good mental health and adjustment. He found that kids who ate dinner with their families at least five times per week were the least likely to take drugs, feel depressed or get into trouble.

According to CASA surveys:

  • Teens who eat dinner with their parents twice a week or less are four times more likely to smoke cigarettes, three times more likely to smoke marijuana, and nearly twice as likely to drink as those who eat dinner with their parents six or seven times a week.
  • Teens who eat frequent family dinners are also less likely than other teens to have sex at young ages and get into fights; they are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide; and are likelier to do better in school. This is true regardless of a teen’s gender, family structure, or family socio-economic level.
  • Teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to be emotionally content, work hard at school, and have positive peer relationships, not to mention healthier eating habits.

C = Courteous and Conversational:

  • Family meals are a natural training ground for learning social skills, manners, and how to have pleasant conversations.
  • It’s at the family table that we learn to talk, learn to behave, to take turns, be polite, not to interrupt, how to share, and when we have guests, how to entertain – good lessons for success in life!

C = Connected to family:

  • According to CASA surveys, teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to be emotionally content, work hard at school, and have positive peer relationships.
  • A study by the Kraft Company found that American families who eat together are happier in many aspects of their lives than those who don’t. Children and teens who eat family meals together experience improved family communication, have stronger family ties and a greater sense of identity and belonging.

E = Eating better:

  • Dianne Neumark-Sztainer and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota, published the results of the EAT study (which stands for eating among teens) in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Their findings showed a dramatic relationship between family meal patterns and dietary intake in adolescents. Their study involved nearly 5,000 middle and high school students of diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. They found that family meals were associated with improved intakes of fruits, vegetables, grains, calcium-rich foods, protein, iron, fiber, and vitamins A, C, E, B-6 and folate. Family meals were associated with a lower intake of soft-drinks and snack foods.
  • The Project EAT survey also found that girls who ate more frequent family meals exhibited less disordered eating including dieting  behaviors, extreme weight control behaviors, binge eating, and chronic dieting.
  • Family meals may help prevent childhood overweight for a variety of reasons: Children feel secure that they will be fed; regular meals prevent grazing and promote coming to the table hungry but not “starving.” Parents can role model healthy eating behaviors and a healthy relationship with food and eating. Eating can be a focused activity if other activities such as television viewing are not taking place; therefore hunger and satiety cues can be attended to and respected. Family meals promote a sense of belonging and lower the risk for loneliness-induced eating for comfort.

S = Sharing food and conversation at meals

S = Strengthens families!!

Help families and our entire community . . .
Make mealtimes a priority:

  • Encourage parents to avoid evening work hours and multiple evening meetings
  • One night a week or one night a month have no school activities
  • Encourage afternoon practices and activities to end before 5:30
  • Encourage evening activities not to begin before 7
  • Host events that include sit-down meals for families
  • Celebrate Family Day in September, or more often!

Make mealtimes a reality by planning ahead:

  • Family and Consumer Sciences classes and after school programs can teach children and teens basic cooking skills and involve the whole family in putting meals on the table.
  • Feature web sites, meal planning ideas, and recipes on school menus and employer newsletters. And, create a positive atmosphere at the table.
  • Encourage families to turn off the television and focus on one another instead.

For more information on Family Mealtime visit the Purdue University Center for Families’

Promoting Family Meals Project: www.cfs.purdue.edu/CFF/promotingfamilymeals

The Importance of Eating Together

“Come and get it!” It may be dinnertime, but when was the last time your family sat down and enjoyed a mealtogether? With music lessons, ball practice, play rehearsal, and work schedules, it can be tough. Rounding up the troops for an evening meal can be almost impossible! However, research is beginning to show that eating as a family has great benefits for your children and teenagers. Here are 8 more reasons why you should try to sit down together 5-6 times a week, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Reason #1: Communication and Well-Being
Conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, plan, connect, and learn from one another. It’s a chance to share information and news of the day, as well as give extra attention to your children and teens. Family meals foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging. It can be a unifying experience for all.

Reason #2: Model Manners (and more)
Family mealtime is the perfect opportunity to display appropriate table manners, meal etiquette, and social skills. Keep the mood light, relaxed, and loving. Try not to instruct or criticize—lead by example.

Reason # 3: Expand Their World…One Food at a Time
Encourage your children to try new foods, without forcing, coercing, or bribing. Introduce a new food along with some of the stand-by favorites. Remember that it can take 8-10 exposures to a new food before it is accepted, so be patient. Trying a new food is like starting a new hobby. It expands your child’s knowledge, experience, and skill.

  • Include foods from other cultures and countries.
  • Select a new vegetable from a local farmer’s market.
  • Have your child select a new recipe from a cookbook, web site, newspaper, magazine or check out the recipes on SparkPeople.

Reason #4: Nourish
Meals prepared and eaten at home are usually more nutritious and healthy. They contain more fruits, vegetables, and dairy products along with additional nutrients such as fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, and folate. Home cooked meals are usually not fried or highly salted, plus soda and sweetened beverage consumption is usually lower at the dinner table.

Reason #5: Become Self-Sufficient
Children today are missing out on the importance of knowing how to plan and prepare meals. Basic cooking, baking, and food preparation are necessities for being self-sufficient. Involve your family in menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. Preschoolers can tear lettuce, cut bananas, and set the table. Older children can pour milk, peel vegetables, and mix batter. Teenagers can dice, chop, bake, and grill. Working as a team puts the meal on the table faster, as well as makes everyone more responsible and accepting of the outcome. Improved eating habits come with “ownership” of a meal.

Reason #6: Prevent Destructive Behaviors
Research shows that frequent family dinners (five or more a week), are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking, and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers when compared to families that eat together two or fewer times per week. Even as older children’s schedules get more complicated, it is important to make an effort to eat meals together. Scheduling is a must.

Reason #7: Improve Grades
Children do better in school when they eat more meals with their parents and family. Teenagers who eat dinner four or more times per week with their families have higher academic performance compared with teenagers who eat with their families two or fewer times per week.

Reason # 8: Save Money
Meals purchased away from home cost two to four times more than meals prepared at home. At present time the restaurant industry’s share of the total food dollar is more than 46%. Due to scheduling, commitments, and activities, families eat out several times each week.

It is time to bring the “family” back to the dinner table. Sharing dinner together gives everyone a sense of identity. It can help ease day-to-day conflicts, as well as establish traditions and memories that can last a lifetime.

— by Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietician.

Family Dinner White Paper

CASAColumbia’s 2012 family dinner White Paper finds that teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week) are more likely to report having excellent relationships with their parents.

Compared to teens who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week), teens who have frequent family dinners are almost one and a half times likelier to say they have an excellent relationship with their mother and one and half times likelier to say they have an excellent relationship with their dad.

The White Paper also finds that compared to teens who say they have an excellent relationship with Dad, teens who have a less than very good relationship with their father are:

• Almost four times likelier to have used marijuana;
• Twice as likely to have used alcohol; and
• Two and a half times as likely to have used tobacco.

And compared to teens who say they have an excellent relationship with Mom, teens who have a less than very good relationship with their mother are:

• Almost three times likelier to have used marijuana;
• Two and a half times as likely to have used alcohol; and
• Two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco.

Click here to download the white paper.

For media inquiries, please contact Lauren Duran at lduran@casacolumbia.org or Ali McSherry at amcsherry@casacolumbia.org.