Boost Health and Happiness with Family Meals

Family mealtimeFamily mealtimeBy Michael F. Roizen, MD

Family dinners can serve up drama and comedy, but they're rarely as fraught or funny as when Mrs. Doubtfire (played by Robin Williams) in the movie of the same name insinuates herself into his (we know, the pronouns are confusing) ex-wife's birthday party so she/he can torpedo the new boyfriend with a pepper-laced entrée.

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What's really true about family dinnertime is that sharing a sit-down dinner three or more days a week can transform everyone's health and brighten your children's future. If lower blood pressure and reduced risk of cancer and heart disease isn't incentive enough, consider this: Dishing up dinner will improve your family ties, improve your love life, and boost your kids' health, self-esteem, and grades. Pass the broccoli, please!

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Here are the facts on eating healthy meals at home:

  • Thirty-five percent of kids who have two or fewer meals a week with the family smoke tobacco and marijuana. Compare this to the kids who have family dinner five to seven times a week; only 12% try marijuana and 14% try cigarettes.
  • Home-cooked meals are healthier. They contain less fat and more essential nutrients than the average fast-food meal. (Thirty-three percent of single serving drive-through meals deliver more than half a day's recommended caloric intake.)
  • Eating a home-cooked dinner together three or more times a week cuts your risk and your kids' risk of obesity by 12%, and increases healthy-food intake by 24%.
  • Remember, at home you can control the portion sizes and slow down the pace of your meal -- a simple way to prevent overeating. Good food (not fast food) equals good health, and that means smarter kids -- not to mention burning passion (and burning calories) for mom and dad.

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Michael F. Roizen, MD, is the cofounder of RealAge.com and chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic.

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