How Eating Dinner Together Helps Teens Stay Healthy

Chow on 07.14.11

As your kids progress from toddlers to teens your dinner routine will change, too -- especially since they no longer need the constant encouragement to sit still and finish a meal. But sharing a meal with your adolescents is just as important to their development as it was when they were young kids, says a new study from the University of Illinois.

Professor Barbara Fiese, who ran the study, points out that busy schedules -- both for working parents and for teens who have sports, school activities, and social lives -- can make it hard to stick to a routine, but that getting the family together for as few as three meals a week makes teens more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to be overweight, and lowers their risk of developing an eating disorder.

"The common belief is that teens don't want to be around their parents very much, and that teens are just too busy for regular meals with the family," says Fiese in Science Daily. "Parents may not be able to get their families together around the table seven days a week, but if they can schedule three family meals a week, they will safeguard their teens' health in significant ways."

And no matter what your teens say, they're not as miserable at the table as you think: Says Fiese, "If family meals are not a forced activity, if parents don't totally control the conversation, and if teens can contribute to family interaction and feel like they're benefiting from it, older kids are likely to welcome participating," she added.

Does your family eat together every night?

More from Science Daily.

Photo: Benimoto/Creative Commons 

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