In celebration of Family Meals Month, we’re highlighting the positive outcomes shown from families making and sharing meals together. Research shows that eating together as a family improves family connection, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving . Seventeen studies also identified a positive relationship between a higher frequency of family meals and better nutritional status, food consumption, and healthy dietary patterns.
As one of the first tools to help families build healthier meals together, the Food Guide Pyramid was created in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to highlight science-based recommendations for food-based dietary guidance. The Food Guide Pyramid was updated to MyPyramid in 2005, and more recently transformed into MyPlate in 2012.
MyPlate is a visual creation of a plate of food that represents current and accurate dietary guidelines for American families. It shows the nutritional balance of a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. MyPlate also allows for flexibility within the recommended options, and even provides healthy suggestions such as ensuring half of daily grains servings is whole grains.
Research has shown that by participating in at least five family meals per week, children were less likely to consume sugar-sweetened beverages and more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. An increase in family meals is even linked to lower rates of childhood obesity. Adults benefit from family meals, too, with reports showing that more frequent family meals are associated with higher levels of family functioning, greater self-esteem, and lower levels of depression and stress among parents.
It doesn’t matter where you are, but rather who you’re with when enjoying a family meal – around the kitchen island for breakfast, eating on-the-go in the car, taking a food break on the field after practice, or eating dinner together at home. Committing to frequent family meals may be hard, but the nutritional, educational, and social benefits are worth it!