Eating together as a family provides benefits for children, studies say

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Studies indicate teens and children are much healthier when eating with family.

With after school sports, tutoring and other lessons, most families understand the challenge of getting to the dinner table at night.

But dietitian Patricia Bannan says it's worth the effort.

"I can relate to how challenging it is to sit down to dinner as a family," Bannan said. "I have a toddler, and I also have a 15-year-old stepson with a basketball schedule and school schedule, so it can be really hard to get everyone sitting down together."

She says a recent report indicates a meal together offers good nutrition, but research indicates other benefits, such as better grades, higher self-esteem and engaging in less risky behavior.

"The list goes on and on, so just one more night a week is really powerful in terms of the benefits," Bannan said.

A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found kids and teens who share meals with their family three or more times per week are significantly less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to have eating disorders.

The study indicated that teens who miss meals at home at least three times a week are three times more likely to try drugs and alcohol. They're also two-and-half times more likely to smoke cigarettes.

And the meal can be quite simple.

If it's made from scratch, that is great, but just know there are things you can get from your freezer or pantry that you can add that's going to add a good amount of nutrition.

"Of course, you want it to taste good, but having things like frozen fruit and vegetables, having super greens that you can heat up really quick in your pantry is really going to be a timesaver, but also super healthy, and the goal is that you're sitting down and talking together," said Bannan.
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