Studies show there are more benefits to eating at home around the dinner table than you think. See the amazing stats…

Why I am cooking dinner tonight

True story – last night at around 6:30 I looked up from my work and realized that I had absolutely no plan for dinner. By this time of day I would have usually pulled something out of the freezer or made a trip to the market, but I was out of time and options.

My husband was working late and with two kids at home I began to bargain with myself. You see, I am really concerned about what I feed my family… and I know we eat out way too much and too much fast food on top of that. So the bargaining sounded something like “okay well those fast food sandwiches are not that bad.” I pictured us going through the drive through (because if I hadn’t thought about dinner, I certainly hadn’t made myself presentable) and my famished children eating their fast food meals in the car on the way home. They would certainly want sodas and chips to accompany the sandwiches and I knew I would cave. Another notch in the dinner regret belt… maybe literally.

Benefits of family dinnersBenefits of family dinners

I didn’t want to regret another meal. So instead, I looked in my freezer again… determined to make something happen quick and saw that I had some frozen salmon filets. I took 4 of them out of the freezer, brushed them with some sesame ginger vinaigrette I had in the fridge, and put them in my Ronco Ready Grill. I had some frozen edamame that I put in the Ready Grill steamer basket, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and within 25 minutes we were eating. It was a hectic day but as we were plating our dinner my husband arrived home and all four of us sat down to a healthy dinner and caught up on the days’ activities.Benefits of family dinners

These moments and decisions really add up over time to create habits and expectations around family meal time. I don’t always do what is best but I am trying to make more decisions to stay home and sit down to a family dinner.

Benefits of family dinners

In April of this year, The U.S. Department of Commerce recently reported that in March 2015, Americans spent $52.3 billion at restaurants and bars and $49.7 billion in grocery stores. For the first time since the government started keeping track of these statistics in 1992, Americans spent more money in restaurants and bars than they did in grocery stores. Even though we as a nation have unprecedented access to a variety of fresh produce, farmers markets and nutritional information, we are still choosing to use our dollars and calories to eat out. Additionally, according to the United States Healthful Food Council, the average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week, and more than 30 percent of children eat fast food on any given day. Although eating out occasionally is a great treat for the whole family, studies tell us there are a myriad of reasons to eat around the dinner table at least 4 times a week.

Some of the benefits of sit down family meals are:

• Eating together provides time that kids can count on spending with their parents and allows parents a time to convey their values and expectations

• Eating together provides routines, traditions and rituals.

• Kids who share at least four meals with their families do better on achievement tests than those who eat three or fewer meals with their families.

• Studies say that children who eat at least 4 family meals at home a week can have up to a 40% lower obesity rate.

• Kids’ thinking skills and linguistic development improve by having regular dinner conversations.

• Teens who eat more meals with their families are less likely to be depressed.

• Teenagers who share more family meals are less likely to take drugs.

• Teens who share more family meals experience better relationships with their families and friends.

• Preparing healthy meals at home gives kids a jumpstart on good nutrition practices that can last a lifetime.

• Kids who help prepare the food served at dinner time are more likely to try the foods they helped prepare.

• Kids who are in the habit of eating with their families eat more vegetables.

• Kids who share family meals drink less soda.

• Cooking meals at home allows us to monitor our own ingredients.

• Cooking at home teaches children how to cook, which is quickly becoming a lost art.

• We have become accustomed to and expect larger portion sizes from restaurants. It’s the “I want my money’s worth,” mentality and in turn we eat more when we dine out.

• Eating at home reduces the temptation of getting that side order of fries or double chocolate cake.

• The average restaurant meal contains a whopping 800-1,500 calories. That’s without the beverage, appetizer, chips or dessert.

Let us know your favorite reasons for family dinners!

-Chef Paja

For further reading and information about studies in this area check out http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/

The family dinner project is a nonprofit organization currently operating from the offices of Project Zero at Harvard University that dedicates itself to the research around and commitment to the family meal. There are many interesting and entertaining blogs to read there.