Even amongst experts there is no discussion: Eating together as a family has positive effects on nutritional habits as children use parents as role models. Unfortunately, family meals have become quite a rarity, especially considering their huge potential benefits.
Family as a Role model
A sad statistic in Germany confirms that more and more children are left to themselves when it’s time for food. Collective meals are few and far between and the consequences are devastating. Of course it will not always be possible to all sit together for every meal. When the going get’s tough and it’s a stressful day at work, or if the sole responsibility lies with a single parent, it can get quite tricky. It’s nevertheless worthwhile trying to take every opportunity to get together around the dinner table. The advantages are numerous:
The good example:
When sitting down together, parents have the immediate opportunity at demonstrating the good example. By consciously showing their pleasure of eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, they become the ideal model for their children. Preferences or dislikes are developed as a family. It therefore becomes vital that parents genuinely show their children that spinach and asparagus are actually very tasty. It helps when the menu is continuously varied, even if there are a few family favourites. This way children can continuously try new things, while occasionally also giving a second chance to previously condemned food.
It is commonly known that more and more kids in Germany suffer from overweight. The fact that many children have to eat alone is certainly a contributor to this problem. Eating together generally also means that there actually still is a cooking process. When eating alone, children often opt for fast food or prepared solutions, often containing a multitude of unhealthy ingredients. At the same time, continuity and reliability, both important factors in a good education, get left behind. The consequence will be that children start stuffing themselves at completely random times. This behaviour is completely incompatible with a healthy nutrition – eating the wrong foods at the wrong times.
A further positive feature of eating with the family is the social component. The nutritional and social developments go hand in hand. Children that stuff their faces while watching television do so in a rush and loose all their appreciation for food. At dinner tables where distractions from TV and Radio are limited, eating takes place at a much healthier rhythm. Everybody eats, talks, and waits until the last one has finished his plate. Parents and children thus get the opportunity to talk about their days, the kindergarten, school work or other events. Through all this, the communication within the family get’s encouraged and the collective meal becomes a focal point of the family life, all the while supporting the value and meaning of good eating.
Collective meals help to ensure that food is well chosen and well prepared in order to support the family’s health and overall well-being. Kids also experience the feeling of continuity and with it a sense of security and belonging. Their awareness for the fact that eating is not a random act, but that nutrition is a key factor in life, will certainly be increased.