January 5, 1999 | By: Haven Miller

If you're looking for a way to slow down life's hectic pace for you and your children, here's an idea that benefits both mind and body: the family dinner hour.

But wait a second - isn't the family dinner hour a tradition that's been around for generations? Absolutely, and nutritionists and family sociologists offer several reasons why the concept is still a good one. For starters, it brings the family together.

"When families get together at dinner time, they share more than just a meal - they share what's been going on in their daily lives," said Gary Hansen, Extension family sociologist in the UK College of Agriculture, "

Hansen said dinner-hour conversation is a two-way street. Not only do children talk about their activities, but parents share their lives and issues. He said this conversation is an important socialization process for youngsters who someday will have adult responsibilities. Hansen also said a meal scheduled at regular times provides children with a sense of stability.

"A regular meal time is something people can count on, and that's important for both youngsters and adults," Hansen said.

The family dinner hour also provides nutritional benefits for busy families. For parents who worry that their kids are not eating right, regular meal times offer a chance to prepare a variety of healthy dishes, many of which are quick and easy.

"Casseroles, mixed dishes or crock pot meals are good options," said Sandra Bastin, Extension nutrition specialist. "Meats can be grilled or broiled, vegetables can be microwaved, and fruits or salads don't take much time." For ideas on meals taking 30 minutes or less to prepare, Bastin said cookbooks are a good investment.

She also said adding fun to family meal times is important.

"Let your children help out - they're more likely to eat something if they help make it themselves," Bastin said. "Younger children who aren't quite old enough for food preparation can be given other jobs, such as cleaning up."

Bastin said family dinner hours don't have to be seven days a week to be effective. Eating together at least three times a week will serve the purpose. She said a regularly scheduled lunch time or breakfast time also offers a break from hectic schedules and daily distractions.

"Discussing the day's activities, listening to one another, and turning off the television while eating are all important to family meal time, " said Bastin.

According to Hansen, the advantages of a regular meal time apply to all families whether they are single-parent or dual-parent households.

"If it's a two-parent family, then the dinner hour allows each adult to hear the other interacting with the children," Hansen said. "If it's a single-parent family, it's a time for sharing what's going on in school, at work, in church activities or whatever is happening in the lives of each family member."

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Contact: 

Writer: Haven Miller
(606) 257-3784

Sources: Gary Hansen
(606) 257-7586

Sandra Bastin
(606) 257-1812