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Eating together

Eating together
Everyone knows that family meals are important, but our lives are sometimes too hectic to have them. One kid has a class, another kid is at a friend's house, you're working late, and your spouse is not hungry. 
Here are some of the main reasons you should do your best to eat together.
  • Communication. Mealtimes are the perfect time to share information, talk, discuss things, ask for advice, and share the minutia of your daily lives. Each family member has their own interests and affairs, and mealtimes are exactly the right time to catch up on each other's doings.
  • Emotional strength. Eating together promotes feelings of unity, warmth, love,  and security. Children who have family meals feel that their parents take pride in them, and that their family is united and harmonious.
  • Nutrition. A family meal includes a greater variety of dishes and ingredients, is nutritionally better balanced, and is a good opportunity to try new foods. Eating together provides children with a model for healthy, balanced meals which accommodate personal taste and meet individual needs, as opposed to snacking on food from the fridge. Studies show that family meals increase intake of fruit and vegetables and decrease intake of fried foods and soft drinks, and a positive connection has also been shown between the number of family meals per week and the amount of protein, calcium, and vitamins consumed.
  • Cost-effectiveness. Family meals tend to be larger, but are nevertheless cheaper to make. Buying in bulk, preparing basic dishes suitable for large parties with leftovers that can be re-used for several days, all make the meal more economical.
  • Saving time. Cooking just once, washing dishes just once, clearing the table just once, and having many helping hands each time – makes family meals fast and efficient.
  • Preventing obesity. Studies show that in families that eat together regularly, the children have a reduced tendency for obesity.
  • Being considerate, compromising, sharing. In a family meal you don't always get what you wanted - sometimes you eat the portion he wanted, or the portion she asked for. Eating together means learning to compromise for your wishes, sharing the last piece of meat, and being considerate to other people. This is valuable learning that goes far beyond meals.
  • Learning boundaries. When children are expected to be present for a family meal, they learn about boundaries, expectations, and about right and wrong. Boundaries are essential for child development.
  • Preventing destructive behavior. Studies show that regular family meals (at least 5 times a week) attenuate destructive behavior in adolescents, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and drug abuse. The more the family eats together, the less chance for adolescents to develop depression or eating disorders, engage in sexual intercourse, or contemplate suicide.
  • Better grades. Another study shows that in families that eat together at least 4 times a week, parents are more involved and children and adolescents are more successful in their studies and have higher grades.
  • Table manners. At mealtimes, children acquire from their parents the essential table manners and social skills they will need throughout their lives.
  • Expanding horizons. Exposure to new foods indicates openness and acceptance. Children don't always like change, so be patient. Encourage, don't coerce. Let your children take an active part in choosing dishes and shopping, browse the cookbooks together and create a menu that suits everyone in the family.
  • Positive experience. Eating together as a family requires practice. The more the family eats together, the more positive the experience will become, the more nutritious the food, and the more enriching the conversation.