The Importance of Family Meals

family enjoying a meal together
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Is dinnertime when your family, not necessarily together, eat a microwaved frozen dish, a sandwich, or leftover pizza in front of the TV? Do you often feel like you often don't have a full conversation with your spouse during the day? If so, it is time for you to reconsider the priority you both place on your mealtimes.

Marriage experts try to impress on married couples the importance of making time on a daily basis to connect with each other. Although it shouldn't be the only time the two of you communicate with one another, eating dinner or breakfast together is a built-in opportunity for that time to connect. Here are reasons to share at least one meal a day together.

Reasons to Share a Meal Together

  • A shared mealtime provides both nourishment and connection.
  • Eating together can improve the quality of your marriage.
  • Sharing a mealtime on a regular basis helps keep the doors of communication open.
  • A regular family mealtime can be an anchor for your day.
  • When you make regular family mealtimes important on your schedule, you show your spouse and kids they are a priority in your life.

More Positive Consequences of Family Meals

  • Your meals are healthier and more balanced than grabbing a quick bite to eat at a fast food restaurant.
  • The two of you and your children learn how to cooperate in the planning, preparation, cooking, and cleanup of family meals.
  • Children are taught manners and good eating habits at family meals.

Things You Need to Do to Have Successful Family Mealtimes

  • Look at the schedules of everyone in your family to find regular mealtimes you can share. Aim for several times a week.
  • Accept that you may need to juggle schedules a bit or if you decide that breakfast would be the best meal to gather together, plan on getting up earlier.
  • Make a list of what you all like to eat. Use this list to plan your menus.
  • Keep the menus for your family meals simple. Try to choose meals that have minimal preparation time. Regular family mealtimes are not the time to put out a holiday spread.
  • Consider cooking some meals ahead of time and freezing them or using the crock pot.
  • Once you've all decided on a menu for the week, shop ahead for groceries.
  • Turn off all the phones.
  • Turn off the television.
  • Keep mealtime conversations positive and pleasant. Family mealtimes are not the time to nag one another or bring up problem issues in your family.

Mealtime Topics to Talk About

  • The favorite part of the day?
  • The biggest challenge of the day?
  • Memories of your childhood, courtship, vacations, etc.
  • Discussion about books, music, or movies you've enjoyed.
  • Stories about your ancestors.
  • Trivial information or news.
  • Do some brainstorming about trips you'd like to take.

Quotes About the Importance of Family Meals

"Phil McConville, whose kids are grown and flown, loves to eat dinner with his wife every night. He’s the cook and he knows that she really appreciates the glass of wine he offers her as she comes in the door: It’s useful for her psychologically to be able to come home from a really hard day and know that someone’s here caring about her."
Source: Nancy Olesen. "How's the Family?" 1/11/2008.

"For most European families at that time, food was paramount. Sitting down to eat together is what we did. There weren't hockey games or piano lessons. But there was always dinner."
Source: Christine Cushing: "Two-Minute Memoir: With Heart in Mouth." 1/01/2009.

"Pressured by two-career households and soccer-mom-carpooling obligations, to cite two of the many distractions of contemporary life, more and more American families dine not at a common table but separately and/or on the run. Family matters ... Children who grow up with a strong sense of family are likely to become solid, healthy adults. Sitting down together for supper -- or any other occasion -- is essential to family, and its importance cannot be overestimated."
Source: Jonathan Yardley. "Ties that bind at Mealtime. 8/30/2005. pg. C08.

"Supper is only the occasion, the excuse. The subject is actually family -- establishing, enjoying, and maintaining ties. The goal is creating and reinforcing a secure place for your loved ones in a society that can seem awfully uninterested in human needs."
Source: Miriam Weinstein. The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier and Happier. 2005. pg. 242.

"Supper is about prevention and repair. We don't have to reinvent our relationships every day, because they are already built into what we know we will do. We don't have to make a special time to get together, because it already exists. We have a place where we can bring things, a set of actions that is both symbolic and real."
Source: Miriam Weinstein. The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier and Happier. 2005. pgs. 246-247.
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