Family dinner is more than just having a family conversation around the dinner table. It is an easy way to improve your family's physical and mental health. At times, family dinner may seem like an overwhelming ordeal, but it produces several health benefits. Here are five ways frequent family dinner can improve your family's overall health.

1. You are more likely to receive essential vitamins and minerals

By being consistent with your family dinners, you have more control over the vitamins and minerals your family members are consuming, and you can help limit the amount of bad food they ingest. For many families, it becomes too easy to grab fast food in between numerous errands. Unfortunately, this fast dinner option includes many health consequences including excess calories and fat. Plus, your body is less likely to receive essential nutrients that you find in vegetables, fruit and lean protein.

2. You avoid mindless eating

While time in front of the TV together is better than nothing, it should rarely be an option for family dinner. When you sit in front of a screen, you don't focus on what you are doing. You don't realize how much you are actually eating, and you often consume more than your recommended calories.

Additionally, when you eat in front of a screen, you are more likely to choose fast processed food for dinner. Frozen food, potato chips, soda and other junk are easy to grab and munch on in front of a TV. But this kind of meal will do little for your family's health.

3. Chances of eating disorders in girls decrease

In a 2008 article published on MedPage Today, author Crystal Phend refers to a study which shows that girls who regularly ate family dinner were 29 percent less likely to use diet pills and diuretics and purge five years later. Additionally, the study found that frequent family dinners lessen the chance for binge eating and other eating disorders. Family dinners are instrumental in building strong relationships with children and helping them develop proper eating habits. If children do not learn proper eating habits around the table while they are young, they will have a hard time eating healthy foods later in life.

4. Children are less likely to use harmful substances

Regular family dinners are a way to learn about your children's lives without appearing overbearing or controlling. It is also a way to instruct children on the dangers of drugs, alcohol and other illegal substances. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are more than twice as likely to say that they expect to try drugs. They are also twice as likely to use tobacco, alcohol and one and a half times likelier to have used marijuana.

Family dinners not only create closer family bonds, they also improve the overall health of your family. By making dinner time one of the most important parts of your day, you will see a difference in the mental and physical health of your family members.

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