Jennifer Ackrish, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist

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Health Benefits of Family Dinners

Posted on November 4, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Whether you are part of a large family or it is just you and your significant other at home research suggests that regular home cooked family dinners are good for your mental, physical and interpersonal well-being. With modern technology constantly being at our finger tips, busy work and school schedules and more two parent working households than ever before it is easy to let go of the idea of regular family dinners labeling them as “too difficult” or “unrealistic.” Many of the individuals, couples and families I work with report feeling disconnected with their families at times. Many couples will tell me they pass their spouse or partner like "ships in the night" and do not get a chance to connect with them until the weekend. I hope the information in this post helps you discover some simple ways to reconnect or bolster your connection with your family as well as improve your physical and mental health.


The attached article reveals that couples and families who dine together at home (at the dinner table with the television off and technology stored away) an average of 5 days per week have lower rates of substance abuse, depression, higher subjective ratings of trust and higher professional and academic performance. For families with children, enjoying home cooked meals together is correlated with lower rates of teen pregnancy, better vocabularies, higher grade point averages and increased resiliency. From a medical perspective families who dine together at home regularly have lower rates of obesity and eating disorders.


I know some of you may be reading this and thinking “the benefits sound great, but there is no way I have time to come home and cook a fancy dinner most nights.” There is no need to make anything fancy, the focus of this exercise is spending time with one another and enjoying a healthy meal together. A wonderful time saver I have discovered in recent years is a crock pot or slow cooker. I often prep these meals the night before and keep the ceramic part of the crock pot in the refrigerator overnight. I place the ceramic part of the crock pot with the raw ingredients in the metal part of the slow cooker in the morning, put the lid on and set the timer accordingly. All you have to do when you get home from work is make a quick side such as pasta, rice or vegetables. You can find some wonderful slow cooker recipes at skinnytaste.com. Also, another great way to save time is to prep some items when you have free time. Soup, sauces, casseroles are all wonderful to prepare ahead of time. You can keep them in the refrigerator or freezer for a meal that is easy to heat up during the week. I do not recommend getting too adventurous when you are preparing a meal on a busy weeknight. You will end up frustrated, your family will likely eat later than expected and you will have a large mess to clean up afterwards. Save those more adventurous recipes for the weekend. You may still be thinking, “Geez, this will still take quite a bit of time.” The truth of the matter is it will take some time, but I think that the mental and physical benefits of making family dinners a regular habit are well worth the time investment. I encourage you and your family to incorporate them into your lifestyle as much as you can.


For more detailed information on this topic visit http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/resources/faq/

 

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