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Benefits of Family Dinners

Our belief in the “magic” of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.

Over three decades of research have shown that regular family meals offer a wide variety of physical, social-emotional and academic benefits. While some of these benefits can be gained through other activities, eating together is the only single activity that is known to provide all of them at the same time.

We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner — the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.


Some of the specific benefits of family dinners are:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity
  • Better cardiovascular health in teens
  • Bigger vocabulary in preschoolers
  • Healthier eating patterns in young adults

There are also benefits for adults, including:

  • Better nutrition with more fruits and vegetables and less fast food
  • Less dieting
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Lower risk of depression


Helpful References

If you’d like to know more about the research behind the benefits of family dinners, Dr. Anne K. Fishel’s Food for Thought blog is a great place to start. These reports and articles are also good references:

Eating Family Meals Together at Home
Comprehensive discussion from JAMA Pediatrics on the research detailing the importance of regular family mealtimes for pediatric patients

The Conversation: Science says: eat with your kids

Summary of research on the academic, nutritional, and mental health benefits of family dinner

NY Times: How to Have Better Family Meals
Great overview of family dinner

The Conversation: Dinnertime storytelling makes kids voracious readers
Summary of research about storytelling at mealtime

The Importance of Family Dinners
Report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

If you are interested in reading more about the benefits of family dinner, check out our Family Dinner References page.