I am a real advocate of families sitting down and eating together as it creates a bond, a connection and makes life fun. Kids can chat about their day, their worries or just spend time with you, and you can share your life with them in a easy and natural way simply through sitting down to a meal together regularly.
It builds memories that last a lifetime.
It’s also a place to iron out differences, talk about worries and be involved in your child’s life.
So I read with interest this week in The Daily Mail about a study that has credited eating together with lower rates of bulimia and anorexia.
Make meal time a time to connect, chat, be involved in each other’s lives and consciously stop just descending into the banal nagging.
Here’s the article by Fiona Macrae
“Teenagers who switch off the TV and sit down to family meals are less likely to suffer eating disorders.
A study has credited eating together with lower rates of bulimia and anorexia. Meals are also less likely to be skipped, and adolescents used to eating round the table are less likely to take up smoking to lose weight.
Researcher Barbara Fiese said: ‘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.
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.
Professor Fiese spoke out after reviewing 17 studies on eating patterns and nutrition involving almost 200,000 children and teenagers.
She found that teens who eat at least five meals a week with their families are 35 per cent less likely to be ‘disordered eaters’.
The definition of disordered eating involves bingeing followed by vomiting – a tack favoured by those suffering bulimia – taking diet pills or laxatives, skipping meals, eating very little and smoking to keep a lid on weight.
Even three family meals a week helped, with youngsters 12 per cent less likely to be overweight than those who ate with their families less often.
They were also 24 per cent more likely to eat healthy foods and have healthy eating habits than those who didn’t share three meals with their families, the journal Pediatrics reports.
The University of Illinois professor said that families who eat together are likely to be more connected, making conversations about bad diet and dangerous eating habits less awkward.
She said: ‘For children and adolescents with disordered eating, mealtime provides a setting in which parents can recognise early signs and take steps to prevent detrimental patterns from turning into full-blowing eating disorders.
Teens can also use family meals as a time to get their thoughts across.
Professor Fiese said: ‘Family meals give them a place where they can go regularly to check in with their parents and express themselves freely.
‘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.’
Previous American research found children who miss out on family meals are much more likely to struggle at school, drink and take drugs.
For those who aren’t sure what to talk about, Professor Fiese advises against quizzing youngsters about their day at school.
Better ice-breakers include ‘If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it and why?’