Did you know that eating a meal as a family helps model healthy eating behaviors for children, and there are also social benefits? Parents and other adults usually set the tone for family meals, and the tone can range from disorder and conflict to security and harmony.

Other interesting facts:

Family meals help children develop a diverse vocabulary.

Family mealtime helps improve family health and wellness.

The preparation for, eating of, and clearing up after a meal all shape family routines and traditions-and every family’s routines are unique.

Children tend to model their parents’ attitudes about food, and the family is the primary place children learn their eating habits and food choices.

Distracted eating, like watching television during a meal, can undo the positive effects of eating as a family.

Connect with your family for better health:

Family dinner provides time for family members to share activities from the day or discuss upcoming events.

Eating together provides an opportunity for families to talk about and model good nutrition and health behaviors.

Family dinners are a good time to share family stories and create memories.

Three things you can do now:

Make it a mission to have meals as a family three times a week or more.

Turn off the TV, video games, cell phones or other distractions to make it easier to focus on family interactions.

Use this time to connect with your family. Encourage conversations by having each family member talk about their day and share family stories. Make sure each member has an opportunity to share.

Get children involved:

Encourage children to participate in age appropriate tasks. For example:

Let kids help plan menu ideas and side dishes.

Take them grocery shopping and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable for the family to try.

Teach them about setting the table.

Guide them in basic food preparation (as they are developmentally ready for and can safely do).

Have them help clean up and clear the table.

Plan to have family mealtimes and the positive benefits for children will last a lifetime.