Experts have long suggested that family dinners serve up many health benefits.
Now, a new survey from the American Heart Association backs that up: An overwhelming 91% of parents said their family is less stressed when they break bread with each other.
“Sharing meals with others is a great way to reduces stress, boost self-esteem and improve social connection, particularly for kids,” said Dr. Erin Michos, American Heart Association volunteer and associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. “Chronic, constant stress can also increase your lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke, so it is important for people to find ways to reduce and manage stress as much as possible, as soon as possible.“
About 1,000 U.S. adults participated in the nationwide survey in September. The survey also found that 84% of adults wish they could share a meal together more often.
Roughly 67% of people said sharing a meal reminds them of the importance of connecting with other people. It also reminds them to slow down and take a break, 54% said.
Although people said they have difficulty aligning schedules with friends and family, about 59% make healthier food choices when they're able to eat with others.
“We know it's not always as easy as it sounds to get people together at mealtime. Like other healthy habits, give yourself permission to start small and build from there,” said Michos, who is also a co-author of the American Heart Association's statement on Psychological Health, Well-being and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection.
“Set a goal to gather friends, family or coworkers for one more meal together each week. If you can't get together in person, think about how you can share a meal together over the phone or a computer,” Michos said in a heart association news release.
While shared meals may reduce stress, about 65% of adults reported being at least somewhat stressed, with 27% saying they are extremely or very stressed. About 69% who work full- or part-time said they would feel less stressed at work if they could break and share a meal with a co-worker.
The American Heart Association plans to share meal tips on Tuesdays through December in an effort it's calling Together Tuesdays. Follow #TogetherTuesday on social media or text 2gether to 51555 to get tips sent directly to your phone.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers some tips on healthy eating for families.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Oct. 10, 2022