Family meals may increase kids physical, mental health

It’s lovely, isn’t it? Gathering around the table during the occasion time and enjoying the company of our loved ones. But family dining shouldn’t be limited to the festive season; a new study suggests that eating with family on a regular basis could benefit children’s health and well-being.

Researchers have found that children who often ate meals with their family at the age of 6 years old had better social skills and general fitness by the age of 10, compared with those who rarely spent mealtimes with their family.

This is not the first study to suggest that frequent family meals offer health benefits. One study published in 2011, for example, found that children who ate at least three meals with their family per week were less likely to be overweight than those who had fewer than three family meals weekly.

Compared with children who rarely had family meals at the age of 6 years old, those who had regular family meals had better general fitness, a lower intake of soft drinks, and better social skills at the age of 10.

The presence of a child’s parents at the dinner table provides them with an opportunity for social interaction and the chance to discuss everyday social issues or concerns. Experiencing positive forms of communication may likely help the child engage in better communication skills with people outside of the family unit.

In today’s society, eating meals in front of the TV rather than around the dining table with loved ones has become the norm. But this latest research suggests that it might be time to revert to traditional family mealtimes.

“At a time when family meal frequency is on a natural decline in the population,” the study authors conclude, “this environmental characteristic can become a target of home-based interventions and could be featured in information campaigns that aim to optimize child development.”

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