How Family Meals Provide Health Benefits by Amanda Crowe

Life gets busy. But carving out time to sit down, put devices away, and share a meal together may be a simple way to deepen our relationships and manage stress.

How Family Meals Provide Health Benefits Stress is a part of everyday life. However, ongoing stress can set the stage for serious health conditions. For example, unrelieved, high levels of stress can:
• Lead to high blood pressure
• Contribute to high blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, because elevated levels of stress hormones can affect your body’s ability to process blood glucose.
• Make it harder to stick with healthy lifestyle choices. When we are stressed, we are less likely to engage in regular physical activity, eat well, or get enough quality sleep.   
 
Finding ways to ease stress is important for your mental and physical health. For example, sharing a meal can help you connect with other people and remind you to slow down and take a break.
 
More Reasons to Have Regular Family Dinners
Stressed parents aren’t the only ones who benefit from the stress-relieving factors of family dinners. Regularly gathering for meals can help with the following:
• Kids achieve better grades and become better communicators overall
• Kids learn good manners
• Kids learn lifelong healthy eating habits, including a higher intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
• Improve family relationships
• Boost confidence, self-esteem, and emotional health
• Prevent of depression, eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, and other risky behaviors
• Provide a safe place for kids to share what’s worrying them—it’s where you can share ideas, reinforce family values, and problem solve. 

Tips for Making Mealtimes a Priority

Most people wish they had more family dinners and time to slow down and connect. But families today are less likely to gather for mealtime than ever before given after school activities, sports, and work demands.
 
Here are some tips to help get you started:
• As with most life changes, start with a small goal like committing to one more meal a week
• Eat together when you can—even if only a few family members are home—or gather for breakfast if mornings are more convenient
• Engage children in the process, whether it’s helping with food prep, setting the table, or making fun place cards
• Go to websites like the Diabetes Food Hub® and pick out new recipes to try together
• Offer a variety of foods to teach healthy habits early
• Put phones, tablets, and other devices away during mealtimes
• Get inside your child’s world by asking questions about school and activities. If you need help getting the conversation going, ask everyone to share the highs (bright spot) and lows (not so great) of their day
• Plan out simple meals for the week so that if you’re short on time, it won’t derail plans to gather as a family
Have fun with it! Create themes like Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays
 
Your whole family will benefit from making mealtimes a priority. For more tips on living healthy with diabetes, sign up for our monthly Healthy Living newsletter today.

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