The power of family mealtimes

I grew up in a large joint family. My grandfather who was the head of the family, always insisted that we  eat together. I still have vivid memories of how much fun family mealtimes used to be. We would sit sharp at 8.45 pm for dinner. It was also the time when the news would be aired on the radio.  Listening to snatches news, we would also intently listen to my grandfather’s tales. A practicing GP, he would narrate interesting stories and case studies about his patients. Then it would be the turn of my grandmother, who updated us on her days activities.  Then kids would pipe up excitedly and share their stories. There was constant chatter, laughter, banter and bonhomie – with never a dull moment. Family mealtimes strengthened our bond. We learnt to share and care, and in a sense, instilled a sense of discipline in us.

When was the last time your family sat together and enjoyed a meal at the dining table? No points for guessing how many of us will be able to remember that.

It’s no secret that the traditional family dinner time is becoming obsolete and dying a slow death. With the shrinking of the family to nuclear sizes and each member having a busy schedule, gathering everyone together at the same time can be quite a task. But if you’ve ever put a serious thought to this, you’ll realize how much it could mean for the family. Because, no matter how  times have changed, this old practice has lot to offer us – without us actually realizing it. In fact, studies too have shown that eating together has several positive benefits, especially for children. Better nutrition is just one of the many advantages. Here are more.

A perfect time to bond and de-stress
After a hectic day on the fast lane, family dinner time is a perfect opportunity for everyone to catch up on each other’s activities and share stories about each one’s experiences over a leisurely meal. It’s the best time to relax, converse, connect, bond and instil a sense of belonging with each other.

Better performance at school
Children who eat meals often with their families are found to fare better at school as compared with children who don’t eat or eat rarely with their parents. Interactions make children confident as well as help them pick up new words from their parents and expand their vocabulary.

Healthier eating habits
Food prepared at home is far healthier and nutritious than outside food. Besides being fortified with all the essential nutrients that growing children need, it is also caloric containing generous amounts of veggies and measured quantities of fat, salt and soda. Family mealtimes is also when kids learn the importance of eating healthy food.

Controlled diet, healthy weight
Family meals give parents an opportunity to monitor how much the child is eating. If you have a child who tends to go berserk and overeat, you can control his eating habits by keeping an eye him and limit the portions he serves himself.

Where table manners begin
Whether you want to teach your child how to conduct himself in company or behave himself while eating, there’s no better place than the dining table to do the grounding. Family dinners make for perfect occasions to teach your children essential social skills, table manners and eating etiquette.

Establishing good eating habits
When children see their children enjoying healthy meals, they will automatically follow suit. For instance parents who insist on eating breakfast can be sure that their children will develop this habit. Role modeling works best when you want to instill a healthy habit, rather than forcing them and lecturing what’s good and what’s not.

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