Benefits of Family Meals


Today’s topic  is Family Meals and  the benefits of eating together as a family. Eating is a social activity. Breaking bread with friends and family is more fun than eating alone.

There is a also a growing body of research and evidence that the family that eats together reaps many benefits.

Here are a few of these benefits:

Better grades

Stronger family relationships

Better table manners

Resilience to adversity

Ability to resist peer pressure

Increase in conversation skills

Healthier eating habits

Less obesity

Children less likely to smoke, drink, or do drugs 

What happened to the family dinner hour? What happened to kids helping fix dinner? What  happened with kids helping clean up after dinner?

I cannot remember not eating a majority of meals around a small kitchen table with my parents and my brothers. We listened to the radio. Sometimes we played 20 Questions. Sometimes we just talked.

And before you get (or already have) this picture of the perfect American family, let me set you straight. My family was not perfect. Far from it! Both of my parents were alcoholic, and all that goes with that was part and parcel of growing up.

And there was also girl scouts, little league, and other after school programs. Yet most nights we sat down around the table to eat a home cooked meal. My brothers and I may not have been as busy as kids today seem to be. But we had our fancies and our hobbies. My mother often worked outside the home too, as well as my dad.

My parents didn’t find time. They made time. It was a priority.

Table Manners

When I was growing up table manners were taught at home.

I remember reading a newspaper article a few years ago that one of the state colleges had instituted a new senior level class in ‘Table Manners.’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My tax dollars go to pay for this class; a class that should be taught at home. For free.

The college added this class at the request of students and job recruiters because twenty-two year olds did not know how to behave at the table when interviewing for a job. What were students taught in this college level class? Not to blow their nose in their napkin. Not to talk with their mouth full of food. Not to lick your knife. Just the basics.

In a gathering with friends and acquaintances this topic came up once. One young mother said she did not want to be negative and criticize her child; that her child could learn table manners as an adult. Well, hon, like with any skill if you don’t learn and practice when you are young it will take you ten times longer to learn later in life. 

By the way, you can teach table manners without criticizing your child. Good manners are really all about being thoughtful and considerate of and to each other. Saying,  “Please,” and Thank you,” are simple courtesies that serve you well throughout life. You are never too young to learn how to do that.


Conversation seems to be a lost art these days. Another benefit of eating family meals together is learning how to converse; or the art of give and take in conversation. Letting everyone have a turn. Learning how to include topics that interest each person at the table.

Not Around the TV Set

When I talk about a sit down meal I mean around a table, not together in the living room watching TV. That does not invite conversation.  In fact, it inhibits conversation.

Neither do I mean sitting at a food bar, or kitchen islands. I have been in many homes where kids get up from these places and do not stay for a full meal.

I am talking about sitting down at a table where you can see everyone – Eye Contact matters to conversation. No matter how small or humble, I am talking about a real table. And a meal where children stay and sit for 30-45 minutes till everyone is done eating; and where children help clean up the kitchen too.

All of these activities teach children life skills they will need to be successful adults.

Well, enough of my ranting. Enough talk of “the good ‘ole’ days.” What do the experts and the researches have to say?

According to ABC News:

According to a new Columbia University survey, teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and much less likely to have substance abuse problems.

As hard as it may be for many teenagers to imagine, there was a time when the family dinner was a kind of ritual in most homes and where family values were ingrained.


The survey suggests that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize.

It found teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.


The survey also found that frequent family dinners were associated with better school performance, with teens 40 percent more likely to get A’s and B’s.

The results are consistent with a growing body of research. A Harvard University study found that family dinners were the most important family events in helping children develop language skills.

According to  children who ate at  family meals consumed more fruits and vegetables and overall ate healthier.

Over at Medical News Today we learn that children who eat meals with their family are less obese:

DAA Spokesperson Lisa Renn said: ‘Family meals encourage slower eating, compared with grab-and-go meals. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to know your stomach is full. And taking the time to eat slowly means eating fewer kilojoules. [calories]

‘Plus, families at home tend to serve healthier portion sizes than fast food outlets and restaurants, so regular family meals are a body blow to childhood obesity.  

According to SparkPeople other benefits of family meal time include expanding world knowledge by fixing Mexican, Thai, or other world cuisines.

When children help in the preparation of meals they also learn self-sufficiency. Knowledge of how to plan and prepare meals is an important life skill.

And last but not least eating meals as a family can help SAVE MONEY. Restaurant food, even fast food, is likely to cost around $5.00 per person. You can make a delicious home cooked meal for $1.00 to $3.00 per person. And in this recession every penny saved helps!

Over at The Power of Family Meals®,  sponsored by the J.M. Smucker Company,  they say many of the same things already reported.

What makes this web site stand out is that they have information and resources to help you implement family meals.

These include:

family meal time ideas


meals and menus

my family meals with a recipe box and grocery list.

This website is a great resource and wonderful site to visit.

The research and evidence is compelling. Even if you can only work in one family meal a week, that is better than none.

As Miriam Weinstein, author of the book, The Surprising Power of Family Meals, says, eating together, “makes us smarter, stronger, healthier, and happier.”

That’s an offer too good to refuse.

Featured Recipe    Sausage Rice Casserole

I like casseroles.

And the main reason I like them is that they feed a lot of people for a relatively small cost. That is good during this recession and with food increasing in price.

They are also relatively easy to throw together. They do not take up to much time. They can also be prepared in advance, the night before; and put in the oven pretty much straight from the fridge.

So casseroles are great for the busy family on family meal night.

I got this recipe from my cousin. It is some what similar to one of my mom’s recipe I shared with you about a year ago, Pork with Wild Rice. It is a very filling meal.

This is what you will need for 6 people:

2 – 6 ounce boxes long grain and wild rice

1 pound bulk sausage

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2/3 cup half and half

2 – 4 ounce cans mushroom pieces drained

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Here is what you do:

Cook the rice according to package directions. Remove the rice from the heat 5 minutes early. NOTE: You will also need 2 tablespoons of butter to make the rice. This will add $0.30 cents to the total cost of the meal; or $0.05 cents per person.

Crumble the sausage into a skillet…………..

 and sauté till browned and cooked through.

If necessary drain the sausage.

Combine the soup and the half and half…..

….and stir into the sausage.

Add the drained mushrooms and the Worcestershire sauce. 

Mix well. Look at the wonderful color of this sauce now. Looks so rich and delicious, doesn’t it?

Dump the rice into a 2 quart casserole.

Add the sausage mixture to the rice and mix it all together very well.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Fresh from the oven. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a salad and/or a vegetable. NOTE: The recipe does not call for diced parsley. I added it here only for picture contrast.

This is a great and easy to make salad to have with this meal. Just slice a tomato or two, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss some capers and sliced black olives on top. Serve on a bed of lettice or plainn as here.

The carrots you see on this plate are  a great easy to make side dish vegetable to have with this meal. Just sauté  some sliced carrot rounds in a few tablespoons of butter. Add some salt and pepper and some sliced fresh tarragon at the last minute.

Bon Appetit!! 


2 – 6 ounce boxes long grain and wild rice             $3.84

1 pound bulk sausage                                           $2.50

1 can cream of mushroom soup                            $0.50

2/3 cup half and half                                            $0.60

2 – 4 ounce cans mushroom pieces drained           $0.67

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce                      $0.37

Total cost = $8.48
Cost per person = $1.41

Quote of the Day

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.  Calvin Trillin
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