The Importance of Family Dinners

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The Importance of Family Dinners

Fitting meals around an entire family’s busy schedule makes it hard to have “family dinners” together. However, family mealtime is extremely beneficial for children.

Research suggests that having dinner together four times a week has positive effects on child development. Family dinners have been linked to an increased chance of graduating from high school, and a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, and the development of eating disorders.


Eating dinner with family provides time for conversation. Parents can teach healthy communication skills without distractions from smart phones, television, computers, or other electronic devices.

Engaging your children in conversation teaches them how to listen and gives them a chance to voice their opinions. This allows your children to have an active voice in the family.

Regular conversation at the dinner table expands a child’s vocabulary and reading ability, regardless of socioeconomic status. Family dinners also allow family members to discuss their day and share news.

Use these tips to encourage conversation:

  • Discuss your child’s day. Express interest in their daily life.
  • Discuss current events. Bring up news that’s appropriate for your child’s age and let them voice their opinion.
  • Let all family members talk. Be an active listener and be sure your child learns to listen as well.
  • Encourage your child to participate. Do not underestimate your child’s ability to hold a conversation.

Developmental Benefits

Family meals provide a sense of security and togetherness that help nurture children into healthy, well-rounded adults. Frequent family dinners have a positive impact on children’s values, motivation, personal identity, and self-esteem.

Children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand, acknowledge, and follow the boundaries and expectations set by their parents. A decrease in high-risk behaviors is related to a greater amount of time spent with family—especially during family dinners.

To make the most of your family mealtime, follow these guidelines:

  • Turn off electronics during dinner.
  • Try to have family dinners four to five times a week.
  • Enjoy positive conversation during the meal.
  • Spend an hour eating dinner, conversing, and cleaning up together.

Nutritional Benefits

Your children learn healthy eating habits from you; eating dinner together provides a model of healthy eating for children to take with them into adulthood. Studies show that families who eat together increase fruit and vegetable intake; they eat fewer fried foods and drink less soda; and family meal frequency is linked to the intake of protein, calcium, and some vitamins.

Mealtime suggestions:

  • Cook as a family and include everyone in the preparation process.
  • Experiment with fun recipes.
  • Remake old recipes with healthier alternatives.
  • Have “theme” cuisine nights such as Italian, Mexican, or Caribbean.
  • Know your children’s favorite meals and cook them on a rotating basis.
  • Create your own recipes.

Daily family dinners require effort to plan, but their benefits in mental and physical health are more than worth it.


This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.