Directions

Ingredients

Doctor Dad: Why I’m Committed to My Family’s Dinner Time

Growing up just outside of the city in Pittsburgh, PA in a large Italian family, I was lucky enough to experience old-fashioned family dinners most nights of the week. During the week, my mother or Italian grandmother would alternate making the kids delicious home-cooked meals after school or following sports practices.

On Sunday, this cycle would include our extended family, and we would rotate between our different houses. We were lucky enough to have all the meals made from scratch–no prepackaged foods–and nearly always from old family recipes.

During the warmer months, these meals always included vegetables from my grandfather’s massive garden. It was a time not only to enjoy real, nutrient-dense whole foods (of course, no one used these words back then), but also to slow down and connect with family and share everything going on in our lives. I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but it was amazing: there were no TVs, cellphones, computers, or social media. It was just people, food, and conversation. Nothing else.

I felt like it was much more than a meal. It was a social gathering, a lesson in sharing life with others, and a subtle lesson on healthy food. It was a form of homeschooling after school at the dinner table by my parents. This might sound nostalgic and unrealistic, but it was just a normal part of my childhood.

Looking back, I realize how hard it is to do this today. We are all busy, many of us living in households where both parents work, or our children need constantly shuttled around to what seems like endless practices, events, and games.

Yet, making family dinner a nightly event serves as a hard stop from these activities where parents and children can take a breather and check in with each other. More events may make family dinner time more difficult, but also more necessary.

Even with all the forces working against modern families, I still want to argue for the old-fashioned family dinner. Here are the two main reasons I think the family dinner is worth fighting for:

Real, whole food, cooked and created at home

We live in a food environment that is downright toxic. Don’t take my word for it. Experts from a variety of scientific fields have outlined all the ways our food environment—through advertising to grocery stores to fast-food chains filling our cities—promotes toxic eating patterns.

We now know that obesity rates are reaching epic levels throughout the adult population, approaching 40%. Most worrisome is that these high rates of obesity are increasing in children, reaching 20% in 2018.

In other words, the importance of real, whole foods needs to be a regular part of our family life from early on, and what better way than to do this than through slowing down with family meals?

The research backs this viewpoint as well. The nutritional benefits for families that join for dinner have been shown in dozens of studies. Cooking frequently at home, as opposed to buying food out, is associated with consuming a healthier diet as well as making better food choices when away from home.

What’s more: healthy choices and food intake by children accompany family dinners even when families might not be functioning well.

A home-cooked meal eliminates most of the processed food that are real culprits behind our toxic food environment. Cooking means working with real food–no premade or packaged foods, no synthetic foods, only the real stuff prepared and cooked together. What better way to teach your children the importance of real, healthy foods than showing by example?

Sharing more than a meal: stories, attention, and care

When we sit down for a meal together, we promote slowing down, talking, and listening between family members. These are the building blocks for the close relationships we actually want in our lives.

When I had family meals together, I felt a sense of security and belongingness. The research shows that I wasn’t just imagining this.

More frequent family dinners are associated with lower rates of behavioral issues, better social interactions, and higher resiliency. A higher frequency of family meals is associated with better mental health in children and adolescents.

At a time when social media is causing significant self-esteem issues in kids, eating family meals together has been consistently associated with high self-esteem. And the knock-on effects of better mental health and self-esteem are seen in studies that show that kids in families that eat meals together experiment less frequently with tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, achieve better grades in school, and have fewer symptoms of depression.

And most important for me, there is no better way to find out what’s going on in my family’s life than to sit down with them over dinner. Mealtime has a way of slowing us down and allowing us to open up to each other. This is why communal meals have been an important part of every society on earth. We humans have always known the importance of mealtime and spending it together with our families.

How we do family dinner in the Champ household:

  1. We make a lot of food and leftovers for lunch the following days.
  2. No phones or screens are allowed at the table or anywhere near the kitchen.
  3. Each meal always contains a plethora of healthy protein, fat, and a spread of green and colorful vegetables.
  4. We cook meals influenced from around the world, and often match wine to this area, creating a fun and educational way to prepare and enjoy our meals.
  5. Once a week our meal includes other family members or friends, where we try to discuss important/educational topics and expose our children to these conversations.

Coming together for dinner remains a vital part of my life and my connection with my family. My wife, Juli, and I really hope that our children will continue this routine with their children, and one day she and I will be the respected elders at the table (but hopefully, not for a very long time).

So, what about you? What is your nightly dinner routine? What do you love about communal meals?

If you like Colin’s Doctor Dad series, be sure to follow him at www.colinchamp.com and sign up for his newsletter!

Doctor Dad: Why I’m Committed to My Family’s Dinner Time

Close
Theme icon

Podcast /

Content /

Embody

Doctor Dad: Why I’m Committed to My Family’s Dinner Time

Take a look at how and why Dr. Colin Champ prioritizes family meals spent together

Join The Family Thrive community and download the mobile app, all for free!

JOIN TODAY

Key takeaways

1

For Colin Champ, MD, family dinners are a priority in his household for two reasons

2

Family dinners promote home-cooked meals made with real, whole foods

3

Family dinners provide a space for the family to spend time together and flourish as a unit

Low hassle, high nutrition

Fierce Food: Easy

Fierce Food: Easy

50/50 mixes of powerful veggies and starchy favorites

Fierce Food: Balance

Fierce Food: Balance

Maximize nutrients, minimize sugar and starch

Fierce Food: Power

Fierce Food: Power

Ingredients

Kitchen Equipment

Ingredient Replacement

View replacement list (PDF)

Reading time:

7 Minutes

Growing up just outside of the city in Pittsburgh, PA in a large Italian family, I was lucky enough to experience old-fashioned family dinners most nights of the week. During the week, my mother or Italian grandmother would alternate making the kids delicious home-cooked meals after school or following sports practices.

On Sunday, this cycle would include our extended family, and we would rotate between our different houses. We were lucky enough to have all the meals made from scratch–no prepackaged foods–and nearly always from old family recipes.

During the warmer months, these meals always included vegetables from my grandfather’s massive garden. It was a time not only to enjoy real, nutrient-dense whole foods (of course, no one used these words back then), but also to slow down and connect with family and share everything going on in our lives. I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but it was amazing: there were no TVs, cellphones, computers, or social media. It was just people, food, and conversation. Nothing else.

I felt like it was much more than a meal. It was a social gathering, a lesson in sharing life with others, and a subtle lesson on healthy food. It was a form of homeschooling after school at the dinner table by my parents. This might sound nostalgic and unrealistic, but it was just a normal part of my childhood.

Looking back, I realize how hard it is to do this today. We are all busy, many of us living in households where both parents work, or our children need constantly shuttled around to what seems like endless practices, events, and games.

Yet, making family dinner a nightly event serves as a hard stop from these activities where parents and children can take a breather and check in with each other. More events may make family dinner time more difficult, but also more necessary.

Even with all the forces working against modern families, I still want to argue for the old-fashioned family dinner. Here are the two main reasons I think the family dinner is worth fighting for:

Real, whole food, cooked and created at home

We live in a food environment that is downright toxic. Don’t take my word for it. Experts from a variety of scientific fields have outlined all the ways our food environment—through advertising to grocery stores to fast-food chains filling our cities—promotes toxic eating patterns.

We now know that obesity rates are reaching epic levels throughout the adult population, approaching 40%. Most worrisome is that these high rates of obesity are increasing in children, reaching 20% in 2018.

In other words, the importance of real, whole foods needs to be a regular part of our family life from early on, and what better way than to do this than through slowing down with family meals?

The research backs this viewpoint as well. The nutritional benefits for families that join for dinner have been shown in dozens of studies. Cooking frequently at home, as opposed to buying food out, is associated with consuming a healthier diet as well as making better food choices when away from home.

What’s more: healthy choices and food intake by children accompany family dinners even when families might not be functioning well.

A home-cooked meal eliminates most of the processed food that are real culprits behind our toxic food environment. Cooking means working with real food–no premade or packaged foods, no synthetic foods, only the real stuff prepared and cooked together. What better way to teach your children the importance of real, healthy foods than showing by example?

Sharing more than a meal: stories, attention, and care

When we sit down for a meal together, we promote slowing down, talking, and listening between family members. These are the building blocks for the close relationships we actually want in our lives.

When I had family meals together, I felt a sense of security and belongingness. The research shows that I wasn’t just imagining this.

More frequent family dinners are associated with lower rates of behavioral issues, better social interactions, and higher resiliency. A higher frequency of family meals is associated with better mental health in children and adolescents.

At a time when social media is causing significant self-esteem issues in kids, eating family meals together has been consistently associated with high self-esteem. And the knock-on effects of better mental health and self-esteem are seen in studies that show that kids in families that eat meals together experiment less frequently with tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, achieve better grades in school, and have fewer symptoms of depression.

And most important for me, there is no better way to find out what’s going on in my family’s life than to sit down with them over dinner. Mealtime has a way of slowing us down and allowing us to open up to each other. This is why communal meals have been an important part of every society on earth. We humans have always known the importance of mealtime and spending it together with our families.

How we do family dinner in the Champ household:

  1. We make a lot of food and leftovers for lunch the following days.
  2. No phones or screens are allowed at the table or anywhere near the kitchen.
  3. Each meal always contains a plethora of healthy protein, fat, and a spread of green and colorful vegetables.
  4. We cook meals influenced from around the world, and often match wine to this area, creating a fun and educational way to prepare and enjoy our meals.
  5. Once a week our meal includes other family members or friends, where we try to discuss important/educational topics and expose our children to these conversations.

Coming together for dinner remains a vital part of my life and my connection with my family. My wife, Juli, and I really hope that our children will continue this routine with their children, and one day she and I will be the respected elders at the table (but hopefully, not for a very long time).

So, what about you? What is your nightly dinner routine? What do you love about communal meals?

If you like Colin’s Doctor Dad series, be sure to follow him at www.colinchamp.com and sign up for his newsletter!

Growing up just outside of the city in Pittsburgh, PA in a large Italian family, I was lucky enough to experience old-fashioned family dinners most nights of the week. During the week, my mother or Italian grandmother would alternate making the kids delicious home-cooked meals after school or following sports practices.

On Sunday, this cycle would include our extended family, and we would rotate between our different houses. We were lucky enough to have all the meals made from scratch–no prepackaged foods–and nearly always from old family recipes.

During the warmer months, these meals always included vegetables from my grandfather’s massive garden. It was a time not only to enjoy real, nutrient-dense whole foods (of course, no one used these words back then), but also to slow down and connect with family and share everything going on in our lives. I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but it was amazing: there were no TVs, cellphones, computers, or social media. It was just people, food, and conversation. Nothing else.

I felt like it was much more than a meal. It was a social gathering, a lesson in sharing life with others, and a subtle lesson on healthy food. It was a form of homeschooling after school at the dinner table by my parents. This might sound nostalgic and unrealistic, but it was just a normal part of my childhood.

Looking back, I realize how hard it is to do this today. We are all busy, many of us living in households where both parents work, or our children need constantly shuttled around to what seems like endless practices, events, and games.

Yet, making family dinner a nightly event serves as a hard stop from these activities where parents and children can take a breather and check in with each other. More events may make family dinner time more difficult, but also more necessary.

Even with all the forces working against modern families, I still want to argue for the old-fashioned family dinner. Here are the two main reasons I think the family dinner is worth fighting for:

Real, whole food, cooked and created at home

We live in a food environment that is downright toxic. Don’t take my word for it. Experts from a variety of scientific fields have outlined all the ways our food environment—through advertising to grocery stores to fast-food chains filling our cities—promotes toxic eating patterns.

We now know that obesity rates are reaching epic levels throughout the adult population, approaching 40%. Most worrisome is that these high rates of obesity are increasing in children, reaching 20% in 2018.

In other words, the importance of real, whole foods needs to be a regular part of our family life from early on, and what better way than to do this than through slowing down with family meals?

The research backs this viewpoint as well. The nutritional benefits for families that join for dinner have been shown in dozens of studies. Cooking frequently at home, as opposed to buying food out, is associated with consuming a healthier diet as well as making better food choices when away from home.

What’s more: healthy choices and food intake by children accompany family dinners even when families might not be functioning well.

A home-cooked meal eliminates most of the processed food that are real culprits behind our toxic food environment. Cooking means working with real food–no premade or packaged foods, no synthetic foods, only the real stuff prepared and cooked together. What better way to teach your children the importance of real, healthy foods than showing by example?

Sharing more than a meal: stories, attention, and care

When we sit down for a meal together, we promote slowing down, talking, and listening between family members. These are the building blocks for the close relationships we actually want in our lives.

When I had family meals together, I felt a sense of security and belongingness. The research shows that I wasn’t just imagining this.

More frequent family dinners are associated with lower rates of behavioral issues, better social interactions, and higher resiliency. A higher frequency of family meals is associated with better mental health in children and adolescents.

At a time when social media is causing significant self-esteem issues in kids, eating family meals together has been consistently associated with high self-esteem. And the knock-on effects of better mental health and self-esteem are seen in studies that show that kids in families that eat meals together experiment less frequently with tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, achieve better grades in school, and have fewer symptoms of depression.

And most important for me, there is no better way to find out what’s going on in my family’s life than to sit down with them over dinner. Mealtime has a way of slowing us down and allowing us to open up to each other. This is why communal meals have been an important part of every society on earth. We humans have always known the importance of mealtime and spending it together with our families.

How we do family dinner in the Champ household:

  1. We make a lot of food and leftovers for lunch the following days.
  2. No phones or screens are allowed at the table or anywhere near the kitchen.
  3. Each meal always contains a plethora of healthy protein, fat, and a spread of green and colorful vegetables.
  4. We cook meals influenced from around the world, and often match wine to this area, creating a fun and educational way to prepare and enjoy our meals.
  5. Once a week our meal includes other family members or friends, where we try to discuss important/educational topics and expose our children to these conversations.

Coming together for dinner remains a vital part of my life and my connection with my family. My wife, Juli, and I really hope that our children will continue this routine with their children, and one day she and I will be the respected elders at the table (but hopefully, not for a very long time).

So, what about you? What is your nightly dinner routine? What do you love about communal meals?

If you like Colin’s Doctor Dad series, be sure to follow him at www.colinchamp.com and sign up for his newsletter!

Growing up just outside of the city in Pittsburgh, PA in a large Italian family, I was lucky enough to experience old-fashioned family dinners most nights of the week. During the week, my mother or Italian grandmother would alternate making the kids delicious home-cooked meals after school or following sports practices.

On Sunday, this cycle would include our extended family, and we would rotate between our different houses. We were lucky enough to have all the meals made from scratch–no prepackaged foods–and nearly always from old family recipes.

During the warmer months, these meals always included vegetables from my grandfather’s massive garden. It was a time not only to enjoy real, nutrient-dense whole foods (of course, no one used these words back then), but also to slow down and connect with family and share everything going on in our lives. I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but it was amazing: there were no TVs, cellphones, computers, or social media. It was just people, food, and conversation. Nothing else.

I felt like it was much more than a meal. It was a social gathering, a lesson in sharing life with others, and a subtle lesson on healthy food. It was a form of homeschooling after school at the dinner table by my parents. This might sound nostalgic and unrealistic, but it was just a normal part of my childhood.

Looking back, I realize how hard it is to do this today. We are all busy, many of us living in households where both parents work, or our children need constantly shuttled around to what seems like endless practices, events, and games.

Yet, making family dinner a nightly event serves as a hard stop from these activities where parents and children can take a breather and check in with each other. More events may make family dinner time more difficult, but also more necessary.

Even with all the forces working against modern families, I still want to argue for the old-fashioned family dinner. Here are the two main reasons I think the family dinner is worth fighting for:

Real, whole food, cooked and created at home

We live in a food environment that is downright toxic. Don’t take my word for it. Experts from a variety of scientific fields have outlined all the ways our food environment—through advertising to grocery stores to fast-food chains filling our cities—promotes toxic eating patterns.

We now know that obesity rates are reaching epic levels throughout the adult population, approaching 40%. Most worrisome is that these high rates of obesity are increasing in children, reaching 20% in 2018.

In other words, the importance of real, whole foods needs to be a regular part of our family life from early on, and what better way than to do this than through slowing down with family meals?

The research backs this viewpoint as well. The nutritional benefits for families that join for dinner have been shown in dozens of studies. Cooking frequently at home, as opposed to buying food out, is associated with consuming a healthier diet as well as making better food choices when away from home.

What’s more: healthy choices and food intake by children accompany family dinners even when families might not be functioning well.

A home-cooked meal eliminates most of the processed food that are real culprits behind our toxic food environment. Cooking means working with real food–no premade or packaged foods, no synthetic foods, only the real stuff prepared and cooked together. What better way to teach your children the importance of real, healthy foods than showing by example?

Sharing more than a meal: stories, attention, and care

When we sit down for a meal together, we promote slowing down, talking, and listening between family members. These are the building blocks for the close relationships we actually want in our lives.

When I had family meals together, I felt a sense of security and belongingness. The research shows that I wasn’t just imagining this.

More frequent family dinners are associated with lower rates of behavioral issues, better social interactions, and higher resiliency. A higher frequency of family meals is associated with better mental health in children and adolescents.

At a time when social media is causing significant self-esteem issues in kids, eating family meals together has been consistently associated with high self-esteem. And the knock-on effects of better mental health and self-esteem are seen in studies that show that kids in families that eat meals together experiment less frequently with tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, achieve better grades in school, and have fewer symptoms of depression.

And most important for me, there is no better way to find out what’s going on in my family’s life than to sit down with them over dinner. Mealtime has a way of slowing us down and allowing us to open up to each other. This is why communal meals have been an important part of every society on earth. We humans have always known the importance of mealtime and spending it together with our families.

How we do family dinner in the Champ household:

  1. We make a lot of food and leftovers for lunch the following days.
  2. No phones or screens are allowed at the table or anywhere near the kitchen.
  3. Each meal always contains a plethora of healthy protein, fat, and a spread of green and colorful vegetables.
  4. We cook meals influenced from around the world, and often match wine to this area, creating a fun and educational way to prepare and enjoy our meals.
  5. Once a week our meal includes other family members or friends, where we try to discuss important/educational topics and expose our children to these conversations.

Coming together for dinner remains a vital part of my life and my connection with my family. My wife, Juli, and I really hope that our children will continue this routine with their children, and one day she and I will be the respected elders at the table (but hopefully, not for a very long time).

So, what about you? What is your nightly dinner routine? What do you love about communal meals?

If you like Colin’s Doctor Dad series, be sure to follow him at www.colinchamp.com and sign up for his newsletter!

Enjoying this? Subscribe to The Family Thrive for more healthy recipes, video classes, and more.

Discover Nourish

See more
Doctor Dad: Why I’m Committed to My Family’s Dinner Time

Podcast

Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

By

Jackie Kovic

Doctor Dad: Why I’m Committed to My Family’s Dinner Time

Podcast

Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

By

Jackie Kovic

Podcast

Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

By

Jackie Kovic

Preparing to thrive before the baby arrives: Three steps to support new moms’ mental and emotional health

Podcast

Preparing to thrive before the baby arrives: Three steps to support new moms’ mental and emotional health

By

Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C

Podcast Ep. 21: Thriving Through the Teen Years with Jena Curtis, EdD, and Vanessa Baker, Parent-Teen Relationship Coach

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 21: Thriving Through the Teen Years with Jena Curtis, EdD, and Vanessa Baker, Parent-Teen Relationship Coach

By

The Family Thrive Podcast

Parenting Is the Spiritual Practice the World Needs Right Now

Podcast

Parenting Is the Spiritual Practice the World Needs Right Now

By

Justin Wilford, PhD

New Research: One science-backed trick for parents to build stronger muscles

Podcast

New Research: One science-backed trick for parents to build stronger muscles

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: Parent intimacy may reduce adolescent depression

Podcast

New Research: Parent intimacy may reduce adolescent depression

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: High-carb meals activate brain areas associated with addiction and hunger

Podcast

New Research: High-carb meals activate brain areas associated with addiction and hunger

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research Tuesday: One More Reason to Avoid Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, and Other Processed Snacks

Podcast

New Research Tuesday: One More Reason to Avoid Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, and Other Processed Snacks

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: Micronutrients in colorful fruits & vegetables linked to improved brain health

Podcast

New Research: Micronutrients in colorful fruits & vegetables linked to improved brain health

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: Probiotics improve body weight, body fat, and heart health in adults

Podcast

New Research: Probiotics improve body weight, body fat, and heart health in adults

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

Ask the Experts: Should my Teen Have a Cellphone?

Podcast

Ask the Experts: Should my Teen Have a Cellphone?

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

Preparing to thrive before the baby arrives: Three steps to support new moms’ mental and emotional health

Pro Perspective

Preparing to thrive before the baby arrives: Three steps to support new moms’ mental and emotional health

By

Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C

Podcast Ep. 21: Thriving Through the Teen Years with Jena Curtis, EdD, and Vanessa Baker, Parent-Teen Relationship Coach

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 21: Thriving Through the Teen Years with Jena Curtis, EdD, and Vanessa Baker, Parent-Teen Relationship Coach

By

The Family Thrive Podcast

Parenting Is the Spiritual Practice the World Needs Right Now

Pro Perspective

Parenting Is the Spiritual Practice the World Needs Right Now

By

Justin Wilford, PhD

New Research: One science-backed trick for parents to build stronger muscles

New Research Tuesday

New Research: One science-backed trick for parents to build stronger muscles

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: Parent intimacy may reduce adolescent depression

New Research Tuesday

New Research: Parent intimacy may reduce adolescent depression

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: High-carb meals activate brain areas associated with addiction and hunger

New Research Tuesday

New Research: High-carb meals activate brain areas associated with addiction and hunger

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research Tuesday: One More Reason to Avoid Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, and Other Processed Snacks

New Research Tuesday

New Research Tuesday: One More Reason to Avoid Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, and Other Processed Snacks

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: Micronutrients in colorful fruits & vegetables linked to improved brain health

New Research Tuesday

New Research: Micronutrients in colorful fruits & vegetables linked to improved brain health

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

New Research: Probiotics improve body weight, body fat, and heart health in adults

New Research Tuesday

New Research: Probiotics improve body weight, body fat, and heart health in adults

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

Ask the Experts: Should my Teen Have a Cellphone?

Pro Perspective

Ask the Experts: Should my Teen Have a Cellphone?

By

The Family Thrive Expert Team

Subscribe to get all the goods

Join for free
Login