Debriefing Over Dinner

How would you answer this question? “During the past seven days, how many times did all, or most, of your family eat a meal together?”

That’s one of the questions asked of young people in a study recently reported in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. The authors concluded that, among other factors, family meal frequency was associated with higher calcium intake.

Aside from improved nutrition, there is a laundry list of benefits that go along with regularly sharing food as a family. They range from the not so surprising—stronger family relationships—to the impressive—better grades in school and decreased risk of using marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol.

When I was growing up, my family had dinner together every evening. My mother would call from work and remind us, my sister and me, to get dinner started. My sister, older than me by only 13 months, always took the call and then would dole out the duties. I may have grumbled about it at the time, but I was happy to have dinner when my parents got home. We didn’t know any differently. Restaurants were scarce, money was tight and everyone we knew ate at home, too.

Nowadays, things are different. Time is tight, restaurants are enticing and many families either eat out or skip out on putting dinner on the table.  

If you are interested in finding out how to get dinners started, want to have family meals more often, or want to know how to solve troubles at the table, sign up for the 3 session program, Food for Families. It’s a noon-time program that begins next week on Wednesday February 3, then continues for the next 2 Wednesdays. This program is open to Michigan State University benefits-eligible faculty, staff and retirees and their spouses or partners. Pre-enrollement is required. Participants receive a copy of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, the text for the program.


  • Larson NI, Neumark-Sztainer D, Harnack L, Wall M, Story M, Eisenberg ME. Calcium and dairy intake: Longitudinal trends during the transition to young adulthood and correlates of calcium intake. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009;41:254-260.
  • National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). The Importance of Family Dinners IV. 2007.

3 comments so far

  1. Clio on

    My family eats dinner together every night. Our family meals, particularly the evening meal, are the foundation of our routines and schedules. When we ask my 3-year-old at bedtime every night the best and worst part of the day, dinner is consistently his pick for the best part of the day. I credit Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility for our consistent and pleasant family dinners. I really can’t imagine our life without them!

  2. Joyce on

    Time? Location?

    • Peggy Crum on

      Program time is 12:10 to 12:50, place is Berkey Hall Rm 115. If you click on the link (Food for Families), you’ll go directly to the Health4U page about this program. At the bottom of the page is information on how to register.

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