A great way to create a healthy family

Published 10:43 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mother’s announcement, “Dinner’s ready” or “Come to supper” remain with us as warm childhood memories. They bring to mind the aroma and taste of good cooking and the comfort of being with the family. Supper time came at the end of the day and we were ready to eat. Well, apparently we got more than good food for our stomachs — we also got strength for our bodies and nourishment for our minds and spirits.

According to researchers, family members who eat together care more for one another and are more likely to remain close after growing up and leaving home. Children of families who eat together are also more likely to respect adults and to get along well with them. Psychologists agree that Dad must be at the table if the family fully enjoys these benefits.

The kids from families that eat together are smarter. For some time we have known that a child needs good nutrition and someone to read aloud to them from infancy through early childhood, but they also need something else.

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Penn State University researchers have discovered the one single thing that is true of the best readers from elementary through high school-their families eat supper together at home.

The report states that children who eat with their families have better vocabularies at earlier ages, are able to express themselves at an earlier age. They score two to three grade levels higher on standardized reading and language tests. Dinner-time conversation increases their vocabulary and offers a wide range of subjects. Kids learn good communication skills and better table manners as they watch and listen to adults and older siblings. The youngsters in the study came from every level of society financially, racially and with parents of every educational level. No kidding, the only difference was whether or not families ate meals together.

And what does eating with the family do for the personalities of the children?

Blake Sperry Boden of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Jennie M Zeisz of DePaul University studied why some adolescents were less likely to do drugs, less likely to be depressed, more motivated at school, and had better peer relationships and here is what they concluded. The one thing that kept teens out of trouble: They ate with their families an average of five days a week compared to poorly-adjusted teens who had family meals three days a week or less. Teen surveys show that the more often children eat dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.

Add another blessing for families that eat together — they enjoy better physical and emotional health. The study reports that families are more likely to eat more fruit and vegetables and to consume far less high fat foods and artificial, sugary drinks.

According to Janet Peterson, author of books on family life, families are served bigger portions when they eat in restaurants. “Restaurant portions continue to increase. The usual restaurant plate used to be 10 inches in diameter and now it is 12 inches. Everything is super-sized.”

Consumer Reports notes that “On average, Americans dine out 18 times a month, spending the equivalent of $812 per year for every man, woman and child.” Do we need proof that it costs more to eat out?

When I was young virtually every family ate supper every evening together. Today only 35% Of American families eat a many as 5 meals a week together.

One reader sent this report to me about the way her grandson handles family meals:

I visited Tim’s oldest son over the week end and was impressed by the fact that they even go get the baby (From the time he was a tiny infant) and place him in his high chair at the table with the rest of the family during meals. The two year old eats very well with a fork and has [done so] since he was quite young. They are very good parents. (Incidentally, the young husband was raised by missionary parents in China.)

If you are now raising a family, for the sake of the children as well as yourself, consider making supper at home a family event. If this is already happening in your home or if you grew up in a family that ate together you can thank the Lord for Country, Motherhood and apple pie.

Eating together as a family is most beneficial when you turn off the television, cell phone, iPod and put the telephone on hold for half an hour or so — then ask the blessing before eating.

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:17