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The Key to a Healthier, Happier Family: Eat Dinner Together

In Life by Kim Muraro , on Thursday, April 26, 2012, 4:47 AM (PDT)
family dinners
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Everyone's Busy, But a Study Shows Regular Family Dinners Offer Significant Physical and Mental Health Benefits

It can be nearly impossible to get the whole fam to sit down for dinner together, especially during the busy work and school week. But a new study shows that everything from weight problems and poor nutritional choices to depression and general happiness can be attacked by simply sitting down together for meals with your loved ones.

Read: Girl Hospitalized After Eating Nothing But Chicken McNuggets For 15 Years

The Rutgers University study, as reported by Time magazine, revealed that families spend nearly 40 percent of their budgets eating outside the home, and often not together. That tends to lead to poorer food choices -- saltier, fattier foods, for instance -- and increases the likelihood of weight problems and nutritional deficiencies.

Kids who eat more meals with their families, the study showed, tend to eat more fruits, veggies, fiber and calcium, and less junk food.

Meanwhile, family dinners also lead to better mental and emotional health. Teens who eat together with their families proved to suffer less depression, and felt more secure and like they had the support of their families.

Read: Clint Eastwood is REALLY Doing a Reality Show with His Family [UPDATE]

"It is very interesting that something as simple as frequently eating meals together may contribute to so many different types of benefits to all family members," study author Jennifer Martin-Biggers said.

“We believe that spending that family time together may provide a platform allowing parents and children to interact and for parents to teach children healthy habits. The increased focus on food and eating may be a mechanism behind the improved diets families tend to show when they eat together.”

Need tips on how to make family dinners happen more frequently in your house? Check out TheFamilyDinnerBook.com, a website -- based on her book -- by Laurie David, a.k.a. the ex-Mrs. Larry David of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame.

Read: 5 Things You Should Never Feed Your Kids

David's book and website details how she and her ex made it a priority to have family dinners with their children, even after they were divorced, and how important those meals have been to keeping the family vibe happening when they don't live under the same roof anymore.

Now if only someone would write a book and website on how we could all magically afford a chef to come to our homes and cook these meals for our families every night …

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