Childhood Obesity Series: Family Meals

Clang, Clang, Clang!

My great-grandmother had a red bell.  And she used it to announce a very important event: family meals.  A time when everyone in the family joined together, gathered around the table, and ate.  Dinnertime was a priority–all work stopped, after-school activities were over, and the phone and TV were silenced.  The family gathered and discussed the events of their day.  It was a time, in modern terms, to download, to debrief, to get centered and figure things out.  Supportive therapy?  Challenge sessions?  Debunking untruths?  Confirming beliefs?  Mealtimes were therapeutic.  Healthy and good for you in more ways than one.

Magic is possible when families gather at the meal table.  Family meals have been shown to be a powerful influence on many facets of childhood–growth, development, social adjustment, behavior, eating habits, and body weight.  Not only do family meals have a positive effect on eating healthier, they also help children maintain a healthy weight.

But that’s not all!  Read on  for the magic of family meals:

Attachment:  Children of families that eat meals together feel more supported, secure, and safe.

Behavior: Family meals are a great way to teach manners, promote communication, and prevent behavioral problems.

Reciprocity:  Conversation, both talking and listening, may be more important than what is actually served or where your family eats.

Adjustment: Children who eat with their families frequently show better social skills and ability to navigate social situations.

Confidence:  Family meals promote trust between child and parent, a key element in nurturing healthy eating.

Academics:  More family meals per week = better grades.

Development:  Healthy and positive family meals promote a healthy weight and normal growth in children.

Acquisition:  Manners are learned at the meal table–sitting down frequently allows ample teaching time and helps your child learn their manners.

Breakfast:  Any meal will do!  Dinner isn’t the only opportunity for a family meal.

Relationship: A positive relationship with food and eating is cultivated at the meal table.  This is a life-long attitude, belief, and flexibility with food that begins early.

Achievement:  The benefits of family meals are realized with 4-5 meals per week.

ABRACADABRA!  It’s magical.  Why Weight?


  1. says

    You are so right! We don’t need to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy family time on the table. Every day, and every meal is an opportunity.

    Recently, we have started “experimenting” with our twins! We spin all kinds of fancy, imaginative stories to grab their interest and attention on the table. My son loves trains – so one of my favorite opening lines is “do you want to know what happened to me at work today? Santa Fe (one of his favorite engines) came to see me…”. From there, the story takes on pretty much a random direction! And to get my daughter interested, I add “…and he brought along Cinderally with him”!

    Family meals, as you point out, are more than food and nutrition. They offer us a chance to build a strong foundation not only for healthy eating habits but also for keeping the family together.

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