New Study Shows Families Are Strong, Making Time to Eat Together At Home
Byline: Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN
Using mealtime as the barometer, a new study released recently shows that families are, in fact, stronger than ever – making time to eat together, talking to one another each day, and truly enjoying spending quality time together. Welch’s Kitchen Table Report found that 71 percent of respondents say their families eat dinner together as often as or more today than their families did when they were children. Nearly 90 percent of parents say they talk to their children every day about what they think and how they feel. Moreover, family mealtime is an extremely important part of family life with 84 percent of respondents saying that one of their favorite parts of the day is when their family eats together. These meals are taking place at the kitchen table, with 68 percent of respondents reporting they eat most meals or snacks together as a family at the table.
It might feel like the traditional ideal of a family gathered for dinner is only a memory of a bygone era and that today’s families aren’t connected to each other as they are busy running around, texting, and watching TV. The truth is parents are making quality time a priority and are using mealtime to share a moment with their children. In fact, research has shown an association between regular family meals and improved family nutrition and overall well-being. In my experience, families who eat together are happier, healthier, and stronger.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, most families currently eat dinner together most nights of the week. For example, 75 percent say that, in an average week, they eat together four or more nights. Even more impressive, 34 percent report they eat together seven nights a week, on average. Not only are families spending time together but they are making it a top priority. In fact, nearly 60 percent of respondents indicate they would rather spend time with their family or a spouse than receive a $5,000 pay raise, lose ten pounds, go on a Caribbean cruise, or get more sleep.
Families are realizing how important shared moments are. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant vacation or a pricey outing – memories can be simple moments together. For example, the daily task of breaking bread together creates a family bond – in the survey we saw that even though most families eat dinner together more than half the time, nearly 60 percent say they’d like to eat together more often.
Family mealtime is serving as the hub of family life, with the kitchen table acting as mission control.
- 75 percent of families eat most meals and snacks in the kitchen.
- The next most common location is the couch, far behind with only 18 percent of parents saying they eat there most often.
- A mere 3 percent of families say they eat in the car on the go.
- Only 3 percent of families say they eat in a restaurant or fast food chain.
The kitchen table is centered around food, but it is also central to family life. Over 70 percent of American families use the kitchen table as a place for catching up as a family, playing games, doing homework, or arts and crafts. Most respondents (nearly 80 percent) say they use their kitchen table for at least eight separate activities together as a family with 94 percent enjoying a family dinner at the table.
Sarah Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN
Sarah-Jane Bedwell is a registered dietitian and Welch’s Health and Nutrition Advisory Panel member, as well as a national speaker and nutrition spokesperson who focuses on educating consumers about making healthy lifestyles changes. She is the “Eat Like Me” food and nutrition blogger for SELF Magazine and a frequent media contributor. In addition, Sarah-Jane educates individuals, large groups and professional associations about food and nutrition through counseling, interactive seminars, and cooking demonstrations. Sarah-Jane was recently selected as the “Emerging Dietetics Leader” by her peers in the Nashville District Dietetic Association.