America’s family mealtime traditions

Family food traditions in the USA

For many of us, having dinner with the family is often a key memory from our childhood and something we’ve continued to do into our adult life. There are few things that bring up fonder memories than that perfect Sunday dinner where everyone got involved, or that experimental pasta bake the kids took charge of which turned out amazing!

We all have our own mealtime traditions, but with how busy life has become in recent years, how many Americans still value regular family meals as an important part of their weekly schedule?

In order to find out, we analysed a few different sources, including research conducted by the database company Statista, market research company YouGov, and in-depth research by Ohio State University to reveal exactly what Americans think about spending time with their family at dinner.

A family dinner is very important, but do you have time for it?

For those worried that spending time with the family at dinner is becoming old fashioned, fear not. Research from Statista shows that roughly 53% of Americans consider getting together with their family at dinner time to be very important. This is contrasted with only 13% of Americans being of the opinion that it’s not very important at all.

However, while this clearly shows that many Americans across the country consider family mealtime vital, it’s not always possible for us all to fit in that quality time. When looking at research provided by YouGov, a full 31% of Americans say they struggle to find the time to organize a family dinner with everyone present.

The reason for this? Work and hobbies getting in the way.

According to many of the studies we read, 65% of Americans say that their inability to sit together at mealtimes is due to conflicting family schedules. We all have a lot going on in our lives, necessary work projects that need finishing, workout routines we need to maintain. All of this can make it difficult to find the time required for a proper family dinner. In fact, a further 36% of those surveyed said people being too busy to eat together was the main obstacle in the way of organizing a regular family meal.

Unfortunately, it’s not always a busy schedule that keeps us apart. When asked about having family mealtimes, 14% of people answered YouGov’s survey by stating that picky eaters within the family made choosing food for everyone difficult. Another 13% actually confirmed that family meals didn’t take place because some family members simply didn’t want to spend time together.

US family mealtimes - statistics

The importance of eating together as a family

While it’s clear plenty of us struggle to find the time for family meals, according to research done by Ohio State University, eating together as a family has numerous benefits, especially for families with young children.

For starters, regular family meals help to instill a sense of routine, which can have a hugely beneficial impact on a child growing up. Routines have been scientifically proven to help both children and adults develop better sleeping schedules, promote healthier eating habits, and offer a general sense of security with the knowledge of what to expect at certain points throughout the day and week.

On top of this, a regular family meal routine increases the likelihood of having positive family interactions that everyone can look forward to. This is essential to ensuring children develop those all-important social skills that everyone needs to learn when growing up.

How can you make family meals a regular occasion?

If you and your family have a hectic schedule, chances are you won’t be able to make family meals a daily occurrence. Fortunately, our team put their heads together and have come up with 10 inventive and fun ways that you can work a family meal into your weekly schedule.

  1. A family meal doesn’t have to occur every day or even at dinner. If you can fit in one family meal once a week at either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even over a coffee, it will go a long way to helping everyone get closer.
  2. Put aside a dedicated day each week where you eat a specific meal. Giving it a fun name like Fajita Friday or Meatball Mondays gives everyone at least one weekly dinner that they can look forward to.
  3. Ban the use of TV and phones while at the dinner table. This goes for everyone, not just the kids, allowing everyone to focus their attention on each other and actually engage in meaningful conversation.
  4. Use this opportunity to find out what each family member has been up to over the course of the day or week. This helps everyone to stay in touch and can get everyone interested in the hobbies and activities of others.
  5. Delegate each family member a different role when it comes to mealtime, such as washing up, getting drinks, setting the table, etc. This gives every family member something to do when dinner comes around and helps to establish their part in the routine.
  6. Get your family directly involved in cooking in the kitchen, teaching them how to prep food, cook various meals, and serve correct portion sizes. Not only will this get them excited to eat together and let them enjoy food that they’ve helped cook, but it will also prepare children for cooking in later life.
  7. You can also get everyone involved in the cleaning up afterwards, putting on a family playlist or an album selected by a different family member each week will make the time shoot by.
  8. If you can spare the time, why not get everyone to help decide on meals together. Children are far more likely to want to eat dinner if it’s a meal they’ve chosen themselves.
  9. Choose plates and cutlery that’s colorful to appeal to younger family members and get them excited to sit at the table.
  10. Get creative in how you eat your meals. Create indoor picnics, the occasional fancy dress dinner, or you could even think about adding dinner games.

Given how important family meals seem to be to the majority of Americans, and the clear health benefits you can get from having one, it’s clear we should all try a little harder to fit in at least one family meal each week. And who knows, if we can make the time to fit in one meal, who’s to say it won’t soon become a daily activity everyone can look forward to?

US family mealtimes - tips

If you’re stuck for ideas on what to cook for a family meal, you can take a look at our recipe inspiration ideas right here, or start planning your dream kitchen with room for all the family with our kitchen planner. And for more insight into other food and meal trends, why not head over to our blog.

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