The “family diet” is best for kids: Researchers have found that children who consistently ate with their family were healthier and made better lifestyle choices

Health does not only involve the physical well-being of a person. It even applies to his social, emotional, and psychological aspects as well. When all these are fulfilled, then an individual is truly healthy. The same goes for children as well — as developing all aspects of well-being is needed to be healthy, especially when this is coupled with time with the family. This is evidenced by a finding stating that children who eat with their families have healthier lives overall, as compared to children who often eat alone. The study, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, shows that the presence of parents and siblings during meal times provides children with sufficient social interaction and productive discussions in order to develop well in all aspects.

The study, led by Linda Pagani from the University of Montreal, states that mealtime interaction between children and the rest of the family secures a good future for the children, especially in communication and emotional management. During these meals when the family is complete, meals are often prepared carefully, including nutritious fruits and vegetables, helping them get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals. Aside from the physical properties of a healthy meal, it is also a means by which a child learns. The most important type of education does not come from school, but from parents who love their child and only wish for their good health.

Participants of the study included children born in Quebec, Canada, from 1997 to 1998. Researchers followed the children since they were five months old, as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. When the children turned six years of age, parents started reporting on the frequency of complete family meals – complete meaning the presence of the parents at the dining table during every meal. At age 10, teachers and the children provided information on their lifestyle habits, including their psychological, social, and emotional well-being.

Based on the observations made in the study, higher levels of physical fitness were recorded in children at age 10 associated with the family meal environment quality data recorded at age six. Soft drink consumption was also lower in children who ate meals with family members as well. Children who were more exposed to family meals had better social skills and had fewer reports of physical aggression, oppositional tendencies, or school-related delinquency by age 10.

Nowadays, many parents find it difficult to find the time to eat a meal with their children. Many parents work more than one job and sacrifice the time they spend with children. This, however, can be managed. Putting more effort into finding time to eat a meal with your children is not just obligatory, but is necessary for your child’s overall development and health. Eat a complete, healthy meal with your child at least once a day, and you’ll notice how they start looking forward to every meal. Meal times are also good grounds for discussing personal issues, especially issues in school, and is also the best time to catch up on your child’s achievements.

Furthermore, during these complete meal times, you’ll get to prepare foods that are beneficial to you and your children. The study, as stated above, helps with psychosocial development, but you can also make it a means to prevent unwanted illnesses and diseases as young as they are. Family meals need not be expensive, and you can prepare a whole, healthy meal for everyone without breaking the bank.

Furthermore, you can have your children help you prepare the meals you will be eating in order for them to learn the value of patience and frugality, as well as respect for the food and for the cook. Take this special time to bond with your children and learn more about them while maintaining their overall health.

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