Family mealtime does more than nourish your children; it provides opportunities to talk, laugh and have fun together, and it fosters family closeness.

Research shows that having regular mealtimes improves the health of children, helps with their social and emotional devel-opment and helps them do better in school. The investment in family mealtime is well worth the time and effort.

In the midst of busy schedules and hectic lifestyles, it is easy for family mealtime to be replaced by other activities. Making family mealtime a reality begins with understanding the benefits of participating in the activity. Benefits of family mealtime include:

Better nutrition. Children who eat regular family meals eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods, and they drink fewer sodas. As a result, these children have a higher intake of dietary fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins A, B and C.

Healthier eating habits. Children who take part in family mealtime are more likely to develop healthy eating habits, and these habits tend to continue into adulthood.

Weight management. Children who take part in regular family mealtimes are less likely to be overweight. When children eat meals with their family, they are more likely to get the nutrition they need and fewer "empty" calorie foods.

Better academic performance. Regular family mealtime helps children do better at school. Young people who regularly eat dinner with their families do better on tests, spend more time on homework and read more for pleasure.

Social adjustment. Family mealtime helps children - especially teenagers - to be well adjusted. Teens who have more family meals are less likely to smoke or use alcohol and drugs. In addition, these teens have better relationships with others, are less depressed and less likely to think of suicide.

Family closeness. Having meals together as a family creates a sense of unity. This feeling of togetherness is needed for children to feel safe and secure. When families eat together, parents provide structure and a solid foundation for their children, as well as good habits and memories that their children will most likely pass down to their families. Do not let life's busy times rob your family of the wealth of benefits that can be gained from family mealtime. Take steps today to make family meals a priority.


For more information, contact Patrice Dunagin, Smith County FCS agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, at 903-590-2980.

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