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Family Dinners: They Are More Important Than You Might Think

When was the last time you had dinner with your family? It is the meal we often skip because we work late, the kids have sporting events or we get tired from daily activities. Our fast-paced lives leave us little time for meals that are shared with everyone in the family. But eating together regularly can be a wonderful source of family time.

Family dinners are a way of slowing down and keeping a family in contact during a hectic week. Whether you sit down at the dinner table or eat at tray tables while watching a movie in the family room, the important thing is that you are together.

Regular Meal Times Provide Stability
There are some interesting facts surrounding family dinner time. For instance, teens who spend dinner time eating with their family are less likely to take drugs or drink alcohol.

Eating Together Encourages Communication
Dinner is a time to share thoughts and feelings. All day, kids are influenced by friends and the outside world. At the dinner table, they get a chance to connect with their parents to discuss issues like schoolwork, peer pressure, friendships and other things that are important to them.

Down Time Helps Relieve Stress
There is something relaxing about sitting around the table with friends and family sharing a good meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a pot of homemade soup. Sharing, talking and taking the time to eat forces families to slow down and can be a great stress reliever.

It’s Fun!
Get creative. Make dinner fun and even teens will be looking forward to family time.

Decorate the table with flowers or bright colors. Eat outside if the weather is nice. If it’s the middle of winter, have a picnic on the living room floor. But most of all, take the time to eat together.

Family Meals Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
The food-court mentality - Johnny eats a burrito, Dad has a burger and Mom picks pasta - comes at a cost. Kids often resist new tastes; they need some nudging away from the salt and fat and toward the fruits and fiber. A study in the Archives of Family Medicine found that more family meals tends to mean less soda and fried food and far more fruits and vegetables.

Regular Family Dinners Equal Better Grades
Studies conducted at Columbia University found that teens who ate regular family dinners were 40 percent more likely to get As and Bs in school than teenagers whose families ate separately.

So in the midst of the chaos of busy family life, try to carve out a few nights a week for sharing mealtimes. Your family will reap the benefits!

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