This post has been created in partnership with the FMI Foundation to support the importance of having dinner together as a family. All thoughts expressed here are our own, as always.
Having dinner together as a family is a tradition we set up in our household when Sophia and Ava were barely out of their highchairs. For me, the importance of family dinners together comes from a strong tradition in Italian families, especially on Sundays. No matter your distance, your circumstances, your job or your social life, our family expected you to be at the house for dinner on Sunday nights. Period. That’s just how I was raised. And although you might think it felt like a command performance, having dinner together as a family is one of my most cherished memories to this day.
In this midst of our new normal right now, this tradition is even more important. We’re spending way more time together at home, and it would be easy to retreat to our rooms alone. Dinner together as a family has brought us closer during these uncertain times, providing something solid and wholesome we can count on. Not just on Sundays, but almost every day of the week.
Dinner Together as a Family
Because September is Family Meals Month (link), we’re working with the FMI Foundation (link) by bringing attention to the importance of having dinner together as a family more often. Families benefit from sitting down at the dinner table to share a meal by gaining quality time spent together without interruptions. Making this moment an important one in our busy schedules also reinforces family bonds and strengthens relationships across the board. In other words, it’s a healthy thing to do!
Thousands of scientific studies show this to be true, including a recent study (link) supported by the FMI Foundation and published in the Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior. In fact, the study called “Home Cooking in America 2020,” funded by the FMI Foundation and released on July 29th, reports that during the global COVID-19 pandemic, 40% of American adults say they are cooking more. In addition, 23% are planning more meals in advance and 18% are trying new dishes more often.
Simply put, having regular dinner together as a family improves consumption of fruits and vegetables that build strong and healthy routines. Another positive effect shown by the study indicates improved communication and connectiveness among family members.
At our house, we know this to be true. The dinner table is literally our gathering spot for all the most important things.
Continuing an Old World Tradition
Growing up, my Sicilian side of the family upheld this family dinner tradition without exception. And by family dinner, I mean ALL the family – from grandparents to grandbabies, aunts, uncles, cousins twice-removed and the occasional stranger that happened to be in the right place at the right time.
This was the time when the importance of family was cemented in our minds. We bonded over the dinner table in multi-generations – listening to and telling stories, sharing memories and laughing/crying together. There was always a table full of food, and so much love to go around.
And wow, the food! In Italian families, food = love. Our dinners include pasta of course, but there is so much more. In our Sicilian tradition we have always cooked only the freshest ingredients, with plenty of seafood, vegetables and simple, clean and healthy dishes. No one ever goes hungry in our family, but they can always say they filled their appetite on a healthy meal.
By the way, September is also National Fruits and Vegetables Month. Hardly a coincidence that this pairs nicely with National Family Meals Month!
Sharing Around the Table
When Sophia and Ava were old enough to sit at the table, we began our own tradition of family dinners together. At first those dinners did not last very long due to the girls’ attention spans, but we began to establish the habit. As they grew up, our family dinners together grew to nearly every night. Not only did we share delicious food, but we formed habits of communication, built relationships, connected over shared stories and passed down traditions.
The dinner table became our family meeting place – and it still is.
One of the traditions we established early was the practice of sharing what happened in our days. We would go around the table with each member of the family answering two questions:
- What was the worst thing that happened in your day?
- What was the best thing that happened in your day?
Answering these two simple questions gives us parents insight into what is going on in our daughters’ lives when we aren’t with them. And it gives them insight into what happens in ours. Not every day is awesome, and seeing us manage through difficult days and find solutions to move forward helps our kids model the same behavior and outlook. It spurs all sorts of conversations about ways to handle the ups and downs of everyday life. Teaching moments can happen naturally in this setting, all while enjoying a delicious family dinner together.
Enjoying Family Dishes
Having dinner together as a family allows me to pass down my love of food and special dishes that my family cherished when I was growing up. I learned to make my Sicilian nana’s traditional meals that she learned from her mother and grandmother, and so on. By cooking those dishes now for my family, I can continue that tradition and pass those recipes on to our kids. It feels good to continue these traditions across generations and into the future. It also gives our kids a sense of family longevity and history that grounds them in today’s crazy world.
Modeling good eating habits for our kids is quite literally a part of enjoying family meals together as well. They see us eating healthy, balanced meals with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and they learn to eat that way too.
So Many Benefits
Especially now – when our busy lives are intersecting with futures hard to predict, we are staying grounded at the Bailey-Klugh household.
Staying healthy mentally and physically, getting exercise, spending time outdoors in the sun and keeping our brains stimulated are all parts of our regular family routine. Plus of course, having dinner together as a family. It’s kept us sane during these many months at home.
Now, what should I make for dinner this Sunday? Hmmm.
For more information, go to www.FamilyMealsMovement.org