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Thursday, October 6, 2011

A few of my favorite things (about family dinners)

The benefits of family dinner are well-documented. For a good article on a recent comprehensive support see Time at the Table. You can also download the full report.

Here are just a few of the many many things I personally love about our family meals.

Healthier her, healthier us*

Even though I've been a registered dietitian for 6 years, I never felt so strongly about the need to eat well before my daughter was born. ... at least when she's watching! My husband & I are her primary role models for healthy eating & healthy behavior in general. I have no business expecting her to grow up liking vegetables or wanting to be active if she doesn't see me doing likewise. So I make sure she see that!


Time to talk

As fellow parents can surely attest, a great deal of table time is spent talking to the child, talking the child into trying a bite of the veggies, talking the child out of painting with her milk or offering the dog the entire contents of her plate. We also ask her how her day was, what she likes best on the plate, what songs she likes, who her favorite friends at school are & why. She doesn't really answer yet. Unless we ask about which animal Old McDonald has on his farm. In which case, the answer is usually "um ... a pig." At this point, addressing her respectfully & with interest mainly lets her know that we respect her & are interested in her.
My husband & I also do engage in some adult conversation. Obviously, this is important for our own sanity. It is also, perhaps also obviously, important for our daughter to see. She sees parents who care about each others' days, who help each other with preparation & clean up, who say "please" & "thank you" to each other, etc & so forth. My husband typically compliments my cooking, followed by asking her "Mommy's a good cook, isn't she?" To which she responds, "Mmm-hmm!" She not only sees us expressing kind sentiments to each other and to her, she also hears us using correct language.

Quiet time

This is no news flash to anyone: it is easy to get over-stimulated out there. The world is full of sounds, images, and sensations. In the palms of our hands we have access to our emails & the days news. We also give others access to us - everywhere. In our house, the norm is cell phones stay away from the family table.
But the greatest source of peace at the table? There is no TV within view of the kitchen table or dining room table. Our kitchen, dining room & living room are all open to each other. We chose not to put a TV in our living room. I am thrilled with nearly every decision we made in building our home, but this might be the best one. Best intentions notwithstanding, it is all too easy to turn on the tube if there's one in view, and that's the end of conversation! The TV placement has worked its magic outside mealtime too. TV is not on all that much period in our house. Oh, certainly - she knows "Mickey" & "Oso" + "Elmo" & "Caillou" -- and we're getting quite familiar with "Gabba." My husband & I are also SciFi TV junkies, but I know we watch much less than when the TV was in the main living area. I cannot recommend it enough!
(In the photo, we're at the kitchen table; the dining room is behind the sink to the right; the living room to the left. And yes, there is an unmade bed directly behind my daughter's adorable face.)

What about you?

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the benefits of family meals. If you want to learn more, take a look at the links above. I also plan to do a more detailed post about how feeding my daughter has made me a healthier eater.

What do you love about family meals?


  1. We rarely have weeknight family meals. Since our schedules are staggered, I come home with Lily and eat and we leave a meal on the counter for Adam. But we really enjoy weekend meals together and we all have breakfast together every morning. It is our time to chat, joke, read a book together or just snuggle before starting the day.

  2. A family meal is a family meal! We can't get out of bed any earlier than absolutely necessary, so Barry & I eat in our cars. She eats at school!
    I bet it's a nice way to start the day. Lily probably gets a nice sense of security from that.