The importance of the family meal cannot be understated. In today’s society eating schedules can be very chaotic, and meals often do not occur at home or with other family members. This is a missed opportunity for a balanced, nourishing meal and quality family interaction. Sharing meals is a long-standing tradition of the human race.
Research has shown that adolescents who have regular family meals are less likely to develop eating disorders. Often, part of eating disorder treatment involves the implementation structured family meals. This helps the person recovering from the eating disorder follow his or her meal plan, and is also therapeutic for the family unit because it brings everyone together and allows for conversation and relationship-building.
Here are some tips to incorporate family meals in your household:
- Designate one night per week as “family meal night.” This allows everyone to plan their schedules accordingly.
- Take turns picking the food to be served.
- If you need to order take-out, do it. The most important part is the gathering.
- Eat the meal at the table. No sitting in front of the TV or eating in the car. These distractions inhibit mindful eating and family conversation.
- Everyone can pitch in – take turns cooking, setting the table, cleaning up.
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Neumark-Sztainer et al. Are family meal patterns associated with disordered eating patterns among adolescents? Journal of Adolescent Health. Nov 2004; 35:350-59.