assortment of foods, silverware, and plates on table with text overlay - Healthy Family Activities: Eating Together as a Family & Why It's So Important

Healthy Family Activities: Eating Together as a Family

Frank Autoimmune Parenting, Emotional Healing, Living Well with Autoimmune Disease Leave a Comment

Eating together as a family is a simple, but often overlooked family ritual. The benefits are backed by scientific studies with impressive results, and are also rooted within Biblical scripture. It's time to let go of over-packed, busy schedules and start enjoying the simplicity of this family mealtime tradition. #raisinghealthykids #healthykidstips #eatingtogether #familygoals

Here (on this blog), we talk about food all the time.  Seriously, it’s plastered everywhere.  Read through any number of our articles, you will likely see diet mentioned in some way.

It’s no accident either.  Listening to our bodies, eliminating foods that we can’t tolerate, and increasing foods that make us feel great, gave us our lives back!

We both suffer(ed) from autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s/Lupus and Celiac), and the minute we took ownership of what went into our body, the world got much brighter.

And because diet plays such a MASSIVE role in our lives, we dedicate a lot (LOT) of time to planning, purchasing, and cooking food.

But we also spend a lot of time eating it…  Partly because it tastes so good!

The other part of why we spend so much time is because we eat dinner EVERY NIGHT as a family.  If I am home from work, we will also eat breakfast and lunch together too.

That’s what this article is about.  We fell into this habit accidentally (based on our autoimmune lifestyle), and we are grateful for it.  Turns out, it’s one of the healthiest things you can do for family and especially your kids.

Want to see the proof?

Here is What “Science Says” about Eating Together as a Family

Surprisingly, there have been real (and numerous) studies done on the benefits of eating meals together as a family.  And I don’t just mean sitting in the same 10-foot radius as your relatives, mindlessly mowing down meatloaf, and watching Wheel of Fortune (no shame if I just described you… for now).

Three studies in particular explain how eating as a family (usually 5 times per week or more) can lead to the following benefits for children:

  • Kids are less inclined to use tobacco (3-4x), alcohol (2-2.5x), and marijuana (2.5x)1
  • They have higher grade point averages2
  • Show less signs of depressive symptoms2
  • Reduce the chance of suicidal tendencies2
  • Eat a higher quality, better balanced diet3
  • Develop better eating habits3

Look, I know I’m trying to make a point here, but the 6 things I just mentioned are significant.

Reduced drug and alcohol dependency.  Less depression and suicide.  Not to mention a healthier population (lower healthcare costs anyone?).  Could you imagine if every child lived without these burdens?

And all you have to do to make it happen is sit down for an hour, eat, and talk to your family!

Come on, I know your pumped for tonight’s meal now.

And while most people use science as the end-all source for fun facts, I look to a higher power to instruct my life’s-direction.  You know, because science eventually proves Him right anyway (like the benefits of rest, prayer, fasting… just to name a few).

After all, the Bible is our road-map to optimal health.

So, here is what God says on the topic…

The best place to start is close to the beginning.  But, I don’t want to jump too far back because eating dinner as a family has got us (humanity) into some trouble.

Remember Adam and Eve?  And dinner was just an apple!

But really, after God’s people settled in to the story of salvation, around Moses’ time, there was an event known as Passover.

After the night of pass-over, God instituted a tradition that would become regular practice: feast days.

What’s important is that the Judeo-Christian religions are LOADED with feast days (Easter, Christmas, etc.).  And these are meant to be huge celebratory meals spent talking and partying with friends and family (think Thanksgiving)… basically the gist of this article.

Proof that God gives us clues as to what keeps us holy and healthy, like eating, talking, and spending time with loved ones!

And if you’re not Catholic or Jewish, but still Christian (or getting there)…

The Bible offers some insight as well.

  • Deuteronomy 12:7 – “And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.”

Lots to unpack, but for the sake of simplicity – This verse is about Moses explaining how to live and what to do as the Israelites enter the Promised Land for the first time.

Specifically, this is an explanation that time spent with family glorifies God and makes us spiritually healthier during a solid meal.

But it’s not just a free-for-all. 

Eating meals together as a family does have huge upside, but we need to be careful too.  Everything in moderation, right?

When it comes to meals, festivities, or gatherings, we can agree that there is always food.  Everybody’s favorite question, “What should I bring?”

Well, out of all the positive things that come with eating meals as a family, hopefully you have noticed that the benefit comes from the interactions between the family members.

Not necessarily the food!

The food is important from the standpoint of using high-quality, nutrient-dense ingredients to maximize the health aspect.  But we are more concerned with the impact of the interactions.

Time spent together is what causes all of the benefits like reduced depression symptoms, drug use, and higher GPA, plus the faith aspect.

An example of this can also, conveniently, be found in the Bible.

Specifically in the Book of Numbers, which takes place right after God plucks His people out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

But He knows that they have some pretty wonky (sinful) cultural norms, so he walks them through the wilderness for years. Imagine a dad dragging (teaching) his child along, and in this case, the child is kicking and screaming.

Since God was trying to teach His children how to behave again, he simplifies their food source by providing something called Manna – a pretty bland substance that they could make cakes out of.

Well… eventually His kids did what kids do!  They complained, and complained about not having all of the delicious treats they had back in Egypt, especially MEAT.

So what did God do?  Well, He gave them some… a lot actually.  And He prefaced by saying this:

  • Numbers 11:19-20 – “You shall eat not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but for a whole month – until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you – because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying. ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”

As you can imagine… some people got very sick.  But don’t get caught up in how “mean” God is being, He is teaching them to behave, just as a father should.

The point is: they were more concerned about their bellies than their faith.  They should have focused on God, and what he was trying to teach and provide for them (namely eternal salvation – no biggy).  And similar to our current discussion about healthy interactions like eating as a family.

The focus isn’t the food.

God, and as a result, the interactions with your family (or anyone you are feasting with) should be the focus!

Eating together as a family is clearly important, so here’s how to do it:

  1. Meal plan on the weekend and go grocery shopping the same day (preferably as a family!)
  2. Decide who will cook (also a great family affair if the kids are old enough).
  3. Set a time that everyone must be home and at the table. Set some rules if needed, such as no phones.
  4. Cook the food and set the table.
  5. Sit down and pray as a family, pray for God to bless your family and bring you all closer to Him and each other.
  6. EAT! TALK! LOVE!

Understand that this takes effort – you can’t just bump-on-a-log it here.  Engage your family and be active!

Make eating together an event.  Some ideas for younger families, like games, can be found here.  There are tons of conversation starters and ideas in case you are having trouble getting the ball rolling.

And while the food IS NOT the main point, don’t ignore it.

I mentioned earlier that kids who grow up eating as a family, usually end up eating better, and/or being healthier than those who don’t.

I challenge you to make truly healthy, God-given food a staple of your game plan.  It doesn’t have to become the focus of the meal, but making boxed frozen lasagna for dinner just doesn’t pack the same punch as REAL lasagna from scratch.

Real food can cause real healing, particularly if you have an autoimmune disease, but also if you don’t!  As Christians, we are called to treat our bodies with the highest respect, they are God’s temples after all.

So take a little extra time to make your meals.  The family will appreciate it (eventually, if you aren’t a great cook yet – you will be!), especially since making and eating healthy food has boundless benefits.

Will you do your family this service?

Are you going to eat at least 5 dinners a week with your family?  What about striving to make the best possible food, to have great conversation and raise the healthiest possible kids?

As a culture who suffers, increasingly, from chronic illness, depression, anxiety, floundering faith, and social distance, wouldn’t it make sense to combat that with something that can be FUN and exciting and warm?

Some nights will be more spectacular than others…

Believe me, we’ve had our fair share of grumpy nights (usually at the hand of two literally screaming children), but we never have to feel disconnected from God or our (insanely loud) family during our meals.  And that makes our family stronger every time we eat…

Which is a lot!

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Eating together as a family is a simple, but often overlooked family ritual Its benefits are backed by scientific studies with impressive results, and are also rooted within Biblical scripture. It's time to let go of over-packed, busy schedules and start enjoying the simplicity of this family mealtime tradition. #raisinghealthykids #healthykidstips #eatingtogether #familygoals

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