How Family Meals Nourish Our Emotional Health

In the book, Dinner with Dad, Cameron Stracher recounts an empowering tale of how he revolutionized his family life simply by prioritizing dinner with them each evening.

With all the busyness of life and with the holidays in full swing, it can be hard to keep meal times with family at the top of the list. Inspired by Stracher’s plight, we decided there’s no better time than now to take a step back and appreciate the emotional nourishment that comes from sitting down to eat with loved ones.

When we gather around the table to a delicious, wholesome meal with family and friends, we’re often not just nourishing our bodies—we’re also feeding our souls. Dining together can create lasting memories and important bonding with those we hold dear and can help remind us of what’s truly important in life.

In fact, here are five great reasons to prioritize connecting with your family over food:

1. You’ll Refill Your Emotional Well

Between work and social activities and all the other responsibilities that are part of the chaos of the day-to-day, life can sometimes leave us feeling emotionally malnourished. But enjoying meals with family can help us pause, enjoy, and replenish those areas where we’re feeling drained.

In fact, research shows that teens who eat with their parents regularly are most likely to experience better mental health.1 So while we’re enjoying nutritious meals full of vitamins, minerals, and prebiotics for our physical health, we can re-nourish our emotional health and reconnect with what really matters by coming together.

2. You’ll Learn From Each Other

Even as adults, we never stop learning, and our family members can teach us a lot about life. Eating together and discussing different issues and events connects everyone to the individual lives that each are living, encouraging open mindedness and bringing fascinating insights to the way one another views and experiences the world.

3. You’re Bound to Laugh

There’s nothing better than relaxing together, being silly, and sharing some good belly laughs—truly food for the soul. Laughing and joking together not only improves family bonding, it can also help promote gratitude and happier moods.

Several studies reveal that happiness is linked to various aspects of better health, including combatting stress and keeping the immune system strong.2 Laughter is especially beneficial during the cold weather months!

4. You’ll Build Closer Relationships

Meal times with family give us all a sense of security and belonging, so it’s no surprise that studies show children who eat with their families feel closer to their parents.3 Eating together encourages more conversation, sharing of important moments from day-to-day life, and connection with one another in a way that is deeply fulfilling.

5. You Can’t Get This Time Back

If you have children, you’ll likely agree that watching them can feel like watching time visibly pass before your eyes. Every stage—good, bad, awkward, and everything in between—is both precious and fleeting.

Making the conscious choice as a family to be present around the dinner table and enjoy one another while savoring the food can fill your heart, change your family dynamic, improve your outlook, and create memories that will last a lifetime. The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives—so do your best to let food be a powerful connector and make these moments count!

References:

1. Eisenberg, M. E., Olson, R. E., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., & Bearinger, L. H. (2004). Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-being Among Adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 158(8), 792.

2. Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Turner, R. B., Alper, C. M., & Skoner, D. P. (2003). Emotional Style and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 652-657.

3. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (2012). The Importance of Family Dinners VIII. New York City, New York: CASAColumbia.

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Lauren Stewart is a gut health evangelist, self-love advocate, and dog mom. Lauren's mission is to help others feel their best, physically and emotionally, through wellness-centered living focused a healthy microbiome! For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

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