#familytime - is eating together around a table really that important?

George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘there is no sincerer love than the love of food’, and I’m sure a lot of people would agree.  Many others, however, would argue the love of family is more sincere, but if you combine the two, it echoes the sentiment of numerous psychologists and medical professionals across the world who believe in the importance of families eating together around a table.

The notion of gathering round a table with your nearest and dearest almost has a nostalgic feel to it in today’s world, it seems to have become a thing of the past, something you might see in a BBC One drama and think, ‘ah yes, I remember when we used to do that.’ But it shouldn’t be like that.

People are starved for time these days, but as we all learnt from our biology lessons, people need to eat to function in daily life. Sitting down for a meal together is perhaps the last bastion of proper family time where we can leave behind our individual pursuits and reconnect with one another. It’s a time to relax, laugh, share and get that monkey off your back, oh and there is the added bonus of its health benefits – both mental and physical.

Leading psychological experts, including Harvard Medical Professor and co-founder of the Family Dinner Project, Anne Fishel, believe sitting down for a nightly meal together will have a very positive impact on a person’s mind, body and spirit. But don’t worry; you don’t need to cook up a three course banquet using the finest Bourbonnais lamb (well not every night anyway!), you all just need to be there.

Scientists have carried out a number of studies into the benefits of the family dinner and the findings are quite powerful. It can help a child’s vocabulary development, lead to lower stress levels in adults and according to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University(CASA)  based in the U.S., children who eat with their family on a daily basis are at lower risk of developing weight problems or alcohol and substance dependency.

Eating together round a table shouldn’t just be the product of tradition, only reserved for a yearly event like Christmas Day or a birthday; it should be much more than that. There’s also no harm in dressing your dining table up for the family meal, it’s still a special occasion even if you are doing it every evening.

My dining room is fairly minimalist in terms of design and the dining table takes pride of place, it’s the hub of our family organisation, so to speak. On the subject of designs and decorations, one thing I’m certainly not a fan of is inspirational quotes in little frames adorning the walls of my house, I find them rather superficial. But there is one that resonates with me, and it simply reads, ‘Families that eat together, stay together’.


Kat Ward