Rediscovered Families

The Importance of Eating Together

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Editor’s note this post is written by Carol from Shared Meals Matter. 

I grew up in Connecticut along with six brothers and four sisters. My twin brother and I were the youngest of eleven children spanning two generations. Our loving, working-class parents ran a household bustling with activity.  Raising us required a lot of patience, a sense of humor, and dedicated planning.

My parents used the family meal ritual as one strategy to keep us all connected. Life was simpler then. Every evening at five o’clock everyone would be present at the dinner table. After- school and personal activities were scheduled around dinner. My childhood was happy, filled with love and laughter. The meal ritual I enjoyed growing up was a major reason why.

Eating together mattered a lot when I was child.

As I married and raised my daughter and son, I saw how our schedules were becoming increasingly complex as the years passed. Especially when my kids were teens, it was challenging to fit in a daily shared meal. Since we needed to stay connected somehow, we flexed our schedules and shared a meal most days, but we didn’t use a specific plan.

Eating together mattered even more when I was raising my children

After my mother passed away in 2000, I felt a little lost. I started sharing meals more often to get through this challenging time. I gained a renewed passion for the shared-meal ritual. I went back to college and studied human development and learned about the powerful ways a shared-meal ritual can benefit us.

I decided to write a book, The Shared-Meal Revolution, a social movement to help others gain awareness about the many health, social, psychological, and other benefits that can be experienced through the simple act of a daily shared-meal ritual.

Here are just a few reasons why eating together is important today

  • A shared-meal ritual helps children feel stable and secure. Parents can role model healthy food choices. Children practice live conversation, a skill many digital natives need.
    Parents find it helps create community in the home. It also demonstrates an active commitment to the well-being of their children.
    Couples enjoy time outside of work hours to keep communication strong and their romance alive.
    Single people of any age (especially those living alone) need daily interaction with others to avoid isolation.

Today, many households deal with the fierce competition of overcrowded schedules, a cultural emphasis on efficiency over quality, and the growing presence of distracting technology. Social media is a wonderful innovation, but we can’t rely on virtual exchanges to replace the necessary human ones.

With all that each of us has on our plate, we often feel fragmented running from task to task. Developing a shared-meal plan helps us to ensure that we will have at least one time a day to share in each other’s lives. Sharing a meal every day is still a relevant way to preserve feelings of peace, connection and wholeness.

Want to read more?

Carol Archambeault believes eating together is increasingly important in our busy society. Carol is working to spur a national dialogue about the benefits of sharing meals through her new book, The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends available from Amazon and her weekly blog Shared Meals Matter. You can also find her on Twitter.

23 thoughts on “The Importance of Eating Together”

  1. Emma @ P is for Preschooler

    I agree. That is something we make a point of doing every night, if at all possible, is sharing a meal together. It’s a time to regroup and share what’s happened during the day and I think it will be especially important once my daughter starts school next year.

    1. Hi Emma! Glad to hear your family is already getting to enjoy a precious meal every day. I agree once school starts, there will be increased importance and enjoyment! Bravo!
      Kind regards,
      Carol

  2. I totally agree with you, it’s so important. It’s too easy to eat and run, eat on the go, eat at staggered times, but my children LOVE a “family meal” 🙂
    #letkidsbekids

    1. Hi Kate!
      I’m so glad your family loves getting together for your family meal. Shortcuts are tempting, aren’t they? I struggled with that myself. The value of having a plan or a ritual is then it becomes the easy thing to do. So glad you are enjoying meals together and I especially appreciate your sentiment of #letkidsbekids.
      Sincerely,
      Carol

    1. Hi Zena!
      Glad your teen enjoys these times at the table. Teens especially have periods of time of reflection and changing feelings — figuring out slowly what it’ll be like to be grown and independent; helping them have an anchor with the daily family meal can help them feel secure as they find their way and transition into adulthood.
      So happy for you,
      Carol

  3. Great post. I totally agree with the need for meal times together at the table. We have meals together most of the time at the moment, but I am worried we might lose that when the kids start school in september.
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Hi Karen,
      Glad you are finding your way to the table with your family. I had that same worry as my kids were growing up. If I may suggest, I have some resources on my website http://www.shared-meals.com that may help you (starting with recording the frequency and what particulars keep you for getting together). Feel free to download any of these from the site (they’re free!). The key is getting everyone invested and making their contribution to the shared-meal plan. Let me know if I can help you further.
      Warm regards,
      Carol

  4. Alexandra Mercer

    To me, family meals are just our way of life, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Hi Alexandra,
      So glad to hear it’s a way of life for you. That’s fantastic! Sometimes presenting it as a natural part of routine (like brushing teeth, making bed, doing homework) helps it to become part of the household activities. Sounds like you have a great plan.
      Best wishes,
      Carol

  5. I think sharing meals is the #1 thing we do in my house, and it’s the #1 important thing of the day being a large family. I only wish we had a big enough table to seat us all!

    I couldn’t imagine having meals at different times, it just wouldn’t be right!

    MC #teamIBOT

    1. Hi! Your comment about a large family made me smile. My childhood family of 6 brothers and 4 sisters had the same problem squeezing everyone in.
      Glad you have a love for the shared-meal ritual.
      Cheers,
      Carol

  6. Glenda @ Healthy Stories

    There’s a lot of great scientific evidence out there showing that shared family meal times are really excellent for nutrition and health. Children and teenagers eat more vegetables and have a healthier diet overall, and they are also less likely to be overweight than children and teenagers from families that don’t have shared meals. And of course the psychological benefits that you mentioned too. Nice post.

    1. Hi Glenda,
      Yes indeed there is some excellent research about the physical benefits of sharing meals together. Role modeling from parents (as well as influences adults give to one another) have a big impact on food habits. Sounds like you are very knowledgeable on the subject. There are also many benefits in psychological as you mentioned, and I’ve researched about social, cultural/ethnic, spiritual, creative, academic, too. Let me know if I can answer any questions for you. Feel free to check out my site. or contact me.
      Have a wonderful day!
      Carol

  7. I grew up with shared meals. To do anything else would seem unnatural! My husband has the hardest time with this, because he didn’t really grow up with it. The food was always put out and people would come and go. Now, when I call “meal time” all the kids come running, and sometimes my husband will be “late.” So, the kids and I are always there, and my husband is when he’s home… just sometimes late!

    1. Nice to meet you, Laurie!
      It’s interesting how our childhood experiences can shape what feels natural at mealtime. Glad to hear your kids have so much enthusiasm, and it sounds like you’re enticing your husband as well to join in, even if late. We all do the best we can with our schedules.
      Thanks for writing!
      Carol

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  9. This is a wonderful reminder of the importance of sharing a meal together. With 3 small boys, mealtime can feel a little crazy. But sitting down with them, looking them in the eye, and talking about their day or what they enjoy just seems to bring calm and connection. Thank you for sharing on Makeovers & Motherhood’s Welcome Party Wednesday Link-Up! I am featuring it this week!

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