Family Mealtime: The Importance of Eating Dinner Together

What's for Dinner?

Creating a Healthy Family Mealtime Routine

The family dinner table is the place where loved ones gather at the end of a long day, talk about school and work, make plans for the future and truly learn to enjoy and appreciate one another. It has been shown that kids whose families eat dinner together do better in school and are more socially well adjusted than their counterparts whose families do not partake of this same evening ritual. The more dinners consumed together, the better the outcomes. For example, a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, revealed that students who have two or fewer family meals per week are three times more likely to try marijuana, 2.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes and 1.5 times more likely to start consuming alcohol, than those kids whose families eat together 5 or more times per week. The families who eat together less often are also more likely to have difficulty finding things to talk about and 45% of them leave the TV on while they are eating.

It can be extremely difficult to make family dinners happen on a regular basis. Kids are busier than ever with sports, dance, volunteering, studies, and social engagements. Parents are often quite busy as well. Many work two jobs to compensate for the sagging economy and still others are single parent households or households in which both parents work second shift.

If you want to create a healthy family dynamic at your dinner table, the following are a few tips that might help you get started in the right direction.

  • Dinner habits should include turning off TVs, radios, and cell phones. If you have a landline that rings, turn that off as well, or at least make it a practice not to answer during dinner.
  • Everyone should be engaged in mealtime routines. Mom may be doing the cooking, but kids can set the table, dad can work the grill or be responsible for beverages. Kids can take turns preparing desserts or work together to fix desserts. This provides extra time to engage with one another and makes us learn to appreciate everyone’s efforts.
  • If you have pets that tend to congregate at your feet, remove them during the meal so that they do not provide added distractions.
  • Since many kids have after-school activities, set your standard meal times for later in order to accommodate everyone’s hectic schedules. If that means that you have an appetizer ready while the finishing meal touches are being attended to, that’s fine.
  • Make sure that meals include well-balanced nutrition. Each meal should include a protein, starch, vegetable, grain and dairy when possible. This helps reinforce the importance of good nutrition for your kids. It also helps keep their minds and bodies healthier. Kids can be finicky though, so it is important to make enough foods that your family really enjoys in order to help promote the desire to come to the table. If you often make liver because it’s full of iron and good for you, the kids will dread coming to dinner. Getting their input on menus for the week is a great way to engage them in the mealtime preparations and to ensure that everyone gets at least one thing that they really enjoy.
  • The meal routine works best at home, but occasionally you really want to go out. That’s okay. The point is to remain at home as often as possible. You’ll have an easier time talking without distractions and you’ll have more control over the food choices and how they are prepared to help ensure a healthier fare.

If conversation is challenging at your house, try making a list of topics to choose from. The following are some ideas:

  • Name something good that happened to you today.
  • Name something good that you did for someone else today.
  • What are you learning about in school?
  • What projects are you working on at the office?
  • Did you make any new friends today?
  • What events are you racing in the upcoming meet (or) what position are you playing in the upcoming game?
  • What do you have for homework?
  • Does anyone have any special plans to add to the calendar this week?
  • How was your (name subject) test today?
  • Who’s got a good joke to tell?
  • Name something that you are thankful for.
  • What would you like to have for dinner tomorrow night?

Stressful topics should be avoided at the dinner table, as they tend to undermine what you are trying to achieve. For example, kids should not be over-burdened with the family’s financial challenges or difficulties that mom and dad may be having on that particular day. It is okay for children to understand that there are limits to spending when the family is having difficulties, but parents should not discuss weighty topics such as job-loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure or related topics in front of the children. Children should have only as much knowledge of such subjects as they need to play their roles responsibly. But they should not be distracted with stressors that cause them to worry too much or cause their studies to suffer. There are definitely negative things that happen to each family in life. Use these stressors as opportunities to count your blessings instead of your anxieties. This teaches children a valuable life lesson. If you need to have weighty conversations with your children, carve out a separate family discussion time in another room of the house. This enables you to preserve the safe, positive integrity of the family mealtime. It gives the kids the knowledge that when they come to dinner, things will be stress free. This then becomes their safe zone.

To that end, one special rule at the dinner table should always include banning criticisms and arguments. This can be challenging when you have younger children and teens, but if you consistently reinforce this message, it will eventually sink in and stick.

To get you started toward your first family meal, I have put together a couple of recipes. I realize that not every meal can be this elaborate, but I thought it might be a nice way to celebrate the kick-off to your new family mealtime routine. To make it easier, you can actually make the desserts 1-3 days in advance. I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Crab Stuffed Chicken

INGREDIENTS

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 (6 oz.) can lump crab meat (I usually use two)

1 (2 ¼ oz.) envelope Lipton Recipe Secrets savory herb with garlic soup mix

4 boneless chicken breasts

¼ cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

¾ cup plain or seasoned breadcrumbs

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 ½ tbsp. butter

DIRECTIONS

Combine cream cheese, crabmeat, and soup mix and set aside.

Cut a pocket into side of each chicken breast (do not cut all the way through)

Fill each pocket with the cream cheese mixture and close with toothpicks

Dip chicken breasts in flour, then eggs, the breadcrumbs

In large skillet, melt oil and butter over medium-high heat

Add chicken to skillet. Cook for 10 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

Transfer chicken to 13x9 pan and bake at 350 degrees F, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until chicken is done.

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

INGREDIENTS

5 medium baking potatoes

¼ cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese (divided)

¾ cup sour cream

1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix

1 tbsp. snipped chives

1 garlic clove, minced (I buy minced garlic and use a heaping ¼ tsp.)

Crumbled cooked bacon and chopped green onions

DIRECTIONS

Bake potatoes at 400 degrees F for 1 hour or until tender. Reduce heat to 375. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. In large mixing bowl, beat pulp with butter. Stir in 1 cup of cheese, sour cream, salad dressing mix, chives and garlic. Spoon into potato shells. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through. Top with bacon and green onions. Makes 10 servings.

Skillet Green Beans

Use fresh green beans. Snip ends off and wash thoroughly. Pat dry. In large skilled, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil sprinkled with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Add green beans and sauté until desired firmness.

Bailey's Creme Brulee

INGREDIENTS

6 ½ cups whipping cream

1 cup Bailey’s Irish Crème

12 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS

Warm whipping cream and Bailey’s over double boiler. In a separate bowl, mix together egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Slowly add warm cream mixture to the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Pour mixture into individual soufflé cups and put soufflé cups into 2” deep pan. Fill pan with warm water and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until set in the center. Don’t over-cook, or eggs will curdle. Remove from oven and let cool. These will keep in the refrigerator for three days.

For the topping, mix equal parts brown sugar and white sugar. Cover tops of the custards with sugar mixture. Cook under broiler until caramelized.

Bon Appetit!

Rate this Hub

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Family Mealtime

© 2010 Jaynie2000

More by this Author


Comments 43 comments

talisa2699 profile image

talisa2699 6 years ago from Boston, MA

I love this right down to the creme brulee!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

Wow - a whole menu in one hub! Well done! The creme brulee looks fabulous.


thooghun profile image

thooghun 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

This is an incredibly comprehensive guide to both cooking and atmosphere. Well done!


2enjoylife8 profile image

2enjoylife8 6 years ago from Amidst a cloud of creative energy.

Oh yeah, good food and good conversation! Can make the effort to get everyone together, and then if the TV is on it is like each person is still in their separate spheres of existence. I like your ideas of what to talk about. Often the question of, "How was your day?" is too overwhelming and worn out. Thanks for your worthwhile hub!


Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 6 years ago from Philippines

Yes, I absolutely agree! Family mealtime must always be a happy time! In today's fast pace of life, many seem to use the dining table as the only meeting place where they can unload their burdens of the day with their family- admonishing their erring children they failed to oversee, bringing up financial problems over meals, showing indifference due to fatigue and even missing the meals, etc.

Let's maintain our good family relations by a joyful and healthful bonding before God's grace. Cheers!


Healing Touch profile image

Healing Touch 6 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

Great family hub. I marked it up, awesome and shared. Great job. stop by and see some of my recipes. Can't wait to try your potoato and the green bean recipe.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

Thanks to everyone for the great feedback. I loved this topic as well. Healing Touch, I'll definitely jet over and check out your recipes. Cheers!


Pudding Fairy profile image

Pudding Fairy 6 years ago from The Top Shelf of the Pantry

Excellent hub! When I was a teenager my parent always insisted we eat dinner at the table, at the time it was the most annoying thing in the world to me, but now I'm an adult it's exactly what I plan to do when I have a family! :)


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

Great! We definitely need strong families in the world.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

You are so right about the family meals. If a family is too busy to eat together, then the family is too busy. Life should be enjoyed and eating together is what makes us human. Plus it's a lot of fun, something to look forward to after a stressful day.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

So true. Good points. Thanks for sharing.


SocialNiche profile image

SocialNiche 6 years ago

I Love EATING w/ my FAMILY! Two of my Favorite Things!


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

Mine too! I love my family and our time together. The family meal is becoming a lost treasure. I hope we can bring it back.


Trampoline Man 6 years ago

I totally agree, someone once told me that families that eat together stay together, such a pitty that this world sucks family time away. my wife and i love our family dinners together. light a candle, put some music on and enjoy each others company.

great hub


SuperiorInteriors profile image

SuperiorInteriors 6 years ago from San Diego, California

Oh my gosh, that crab-stuffed chicken sounds divine! This article was very nice... but the recipes at the end just made it to the top of my list! Thanks for sharing!


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

Superior...Thanks so much! I've made that chicken dish a few times and it's always wonderful. I hope you enjoy it!


lambservant profile image

lambservant 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Excellent hub. Regular family meals are almost a rarity. Delicious, nutritious meals and intimate fellowship as we dine is a sure recipe for healthy family relationships.

Thanks for an engaging and uplifting hub.

PS Set a place for me, I'm on my way over for dinner.


warrioRR profile image

warrioRR 6 years ago from Rawalpindi Pakistan

Love to read it

Nice Creation


Aomos 6 years ago

What a great article and with such wonderful recipes. It was the title that caught my eye as I am a big of Dinners' as for me it gives the family an opportunity to be together. Thanks. Aomos


Paulette305 profile image

Paulette305 6 years ago

Wow - this is great! Full of useful information. Thank you!


ChristinaScibona profile image

ChristinaScibona 6 years ago from The Heart of the Finger Lakes

Thanks for sharing this information. We always sit down and eat dinner as a family no matter how busy we are. It is so important. Awesome job!


Dee aka Nonna profile image

Dee aka Nonna 6 years ago

This is a great hub. I've done a great deal of speaking to parent groups, youth groups, etc. over the years and one of the things I always recommend is eating together at the table and talking...One of my most cherished memories is family mealtime. We always had dinner together on weekdays and on Saturday we had breakfast and dinner together. On Sunday we had all three together. Breakfast before church. A lite lunch after and and great meal for dinner. We were busy, but not overscheduled like families are today. Thanks again. I will be keeping and using the receipes.


KMayer 6 years ago

Families don't get it: it is that easy. Sit down, eat, talk, connect. No cells, no blackberries, just facetime.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

Yes. Imagine that...face time instead of Facebook! lol

Thanks everyone for weighing in. I wholeheartedly agree. Family mealtime has been a dying art form, but we need to bring it back! Our kids deserve as much, and so do we.


Attention Getter profile image

Attention Getter 6 years ago

Interesting statistics on kids who eat as a family. I grew up eating as a family and talking about our day and I remember it as one of the most cherished times as a family. After dinner you go to your room or watch TV but dinner time was about - being a family.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

It's always so nice to hear about all the people who grew up eating with their families. I did as well, and it may be no coincidence that I turned out okay and my kids are following suit. I guess our parents knew a thing or two about raising good kids, even back then. Thanks for the feedback!


cwarden profile image

cwarden 6 years ago from USA

Dinner with my family is my favorite time of day and I can't imagine not sharing it. It was the same when I was a child. It's so sad that some families don't have this experience.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

I agree. Thanks cwarden. ( -:


cooperfsu profile image

cooperfsu 6 years ago from Valencia, Spain

Good Hub. Growing up, my parents had an unbreakable rule that we all had to sit at the dining room table and have dinner together. It is a very important component of family life.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

That seems to be a recurring and very valuable theme. Thanks for weighing in .


ArthurAmos 6 years ago

Eating together means having a good meal while having a great time with family. It is important for a family to eat together because during this time issues concerned are tackled and nonetheless this is a right way to open up a means of communication. Great post. I strongly agree with what you have shared. More power.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

Thanks so much Arthur. Nice to have you following the hub!


G-Pops profile image

G-Pops 6 years ago

I oversee a program in Tucson, Make Mealtime Family Time. We are working in over 80 elementary schools to help families strengthen or return to shared family meals. Website: makemealtimefamilytime.com It is nice to read so many positive and like minded comments on the importance of family mealtime! Thanks to all!


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

What a great job! I agree, it's great to know that there are so many committed to strong families through this worthwhile effort.


smartestkidsever profile image

smartestkidsever 6 years ago

I love this article! My husband and I truly believe in having family meal times. Even if there are times that there are only 2 of us at the table, we use it as a time to reflect on the day and see how everyone is doing. My children are very young but my husband works some crazy shifts. We are able to make the most of it and enjoy our meals together. Even though my children are young, we have them participate in getting the meal ready. Hey, it helps mommy out and it gives them a sense of trust, knowing that they have responsibility. I honestly believe that this can work with any family. It doesn't matter how many are at your table as long as you make the most with who is there with you.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 6 years ago Author

What a wonderful perspective. Thanks so much for weighing in. Sounds like you have a wonderful family.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I totally agree with you and at my house I make it point to make sure everyone sits down at the dinner table on Sundays. When the children were young we were able to have dinner every night at the table..but as the years went on it got harder and harder to do this. I miss those days. Looking forward to trying your Crab Stuffed Chicken Recipe. It looks so delicious.


Str8up Hookups profile image

Str8up Hookups 5 years ago

Hub up!

This is how you build families and traditions.I only have 1 kid now 12 so it's easy just to drive-thru but he likes to help me cook.

Those are the best times we talk while prepping,cooking and then over what we've prepared.

Great conversations over great food,I cherish these moments!

Going to try your recipe,all of it soon.

Thanks for sharing!


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 5 years ago Author

Thanks Susan & Str8up. I'm so glad you enjoyed the hub.


slaffery profile image

slaffery 5 years ago from Kansas, USA

This is awesome information and I have printed a copy out for each of the ladies I work with as we can share these tips with our families in our program. I definitely see some things I can make better with my own family as well. Thanks for writing this hub. Voted Up and useful


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 5 years ago Author

Thank you so much Slaffery. I appreciate the feedback and I am delighted that you enjoyed it. Thanks also for sharing it.


art tribunal 4 years ago

hi im writing a research proposal..what"s the reference of this article and what year?


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 4 years ago Author

I'm the reference. This is an original article and the recipes are mine.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working