September is National Family Meals Month!

Start planning now to recognize September as National Family Meals Month!

Health education research, plus plain common sense, tells us that people eating together at home as a family has multiple benefits, including psychological, social, physical and even financial. Research suggests that teens who eat dinner with their parents regularly develop better relationships with them ,do better in school, and are at lower risk of using drugs, drinking or smoking.1

But according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Americans are increasingly eating alone: When a typical adult in the U.S. has something to eat or drink during the week, half of the time (46%) this is a solitary occasion. It's not just for our brief but ubiquitous snacks, and it's not just people who live alone: Among all adults, only 59% of meals are eaten together, and the growth in alone eating outpaces the growth in single-person household.

And why is that? Well, no surprise here. Among several obstacles to eating dinner at home with the family, most people say that the hardest to overcome is the fundamental difficulty of getting family members together at the same time for dinner. FMI reports that, compared to other nations, American families today have a broader window for dinnertime, as much as five hours (4:00 pm – 9:00 pm), with a short peak from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm.² Work schedules in the US do not recognize a culturally shared expectation for a regular, shared dinner time.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! As you’re setting up your family’s schedule for the fall, think about the importance of adding just one, intentional shared home-prepared meal to your weekly calendar. There is plenty of help available from supermarkets and food companies, who are leading the charge for National Family Meals Month. Here are some quick tips that may help your family:

  • Don’t limit your options to dinnertime. If evenings are crazy at your house, and planned eating together can’t happen on a consistent basis, start thinking about other meal opportunities. How about Saturday morning breakfast, or a weekly Sunday midday lunch?

  • Remember that eating at home is what is important here, both to reinforce the family table atmosphere and to reap the nutrition benefits of home cooked meals. But it doesn’t always have to be your home! Try rotating the hosting among family members if you have relatives living nearby.

  • If time is tight, there are plenty of short cuts available at your supermarket. Frozen fruits and vegetables, pre-cooked foods like rotisserie chicken or packaged prepared meats, and premade salads from the deli case can all play a part in getting a nutritious meal together in short order.

¹The Importance of Family Dinners VIII, A CASAColumbia™ White Paper (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University). Sep 2012.

²Who Eats When? Euromonitor International. Nov 2011.

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