With hectic schedules and jobs with hours that blur into nights and weekends, it seems almost impossible to get the whole family together for a sit-down meal. But scheduling time for Sunday night dinner is more than just a chance to eat together — it's precious time to bond as a family and increase everyone's overall well-being.
According to research from the University of Oxford, eating together can make people happier and more satisfied with their lives. Using data from a national survey by The Big Lunch the researchers concluded that eating together allows people to form communal bonds, which results in a better outlook on life.
"As a dietitian, I’ve always known how important family meals are," Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutrition expert and author of "The Smoothie Plan" told TODAY Food. "And as a mom of three school-aged kids with differing schedules, I am now seeing how family meals can get put to the side. But they’re so important for your child’s and family’s well-being."
Largeman-Roth said research has shown that family meals aren’t just nice to have, they provide real benefits for kids, including better academic performance and self-esteem, lower substance abuse and risk of teen pregnancy, lower risk of depression and lower likelihood of developing eating disorders. There are also payoffs for adults, including more nutritious meals, less emphasis on dieting, better self-esteem, better marriage satisfaction and lower risk of depression.
"Family dinners should feel fun and easy, not stressful," said Largeman-Roth. "Ask each family member to put a recipe or meal on a shared list — it could be a list on the fridge or a shared Google doc — and then create a monthly calendar with each person’s pick."
It’s great if you can gather the family to cook together, but if that’s not possible, at least get kids involved in clearing and setting the table, putting out flowers or bringing condiments to the table.
While sometimes eating on the go is unavoidable, if you can set aside time for Sunday dinner (or any other meal that suits your family) you'll experience firsthand the bonding that happens when your crew eats together.
Ready to try a Sunday dinner of your own? We've got a complete menu to inspire you!
Easy Yogurt-Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is an easy and versatile recipe that makes for a meal everyone will enjoy — and you can even have some family game time while it rests! Toss any leftovers into a salad for work or school the next day. It's truly a dinner that keeps on giving.
Slow-Cooker Scalloped Potatoes
This recipe looks fancy but is very hands-off to make. Toss them in the slow-cooker and then enjoy the creamy, cheesy goodness when it's dinnertime. No time for scalloped potatoes? Roast them instead.
Green Beans with Shallots and Bacon
Everyone knows bacon is the best way to get the kids (and the adults!) to eat their greens. This recipe comes together quickly and is best served warm.
Vanilla Magic Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Magical Sunday dinners deserve a magical cake! This recipe is actually quite easy and results in three layers: a rich, luxurious custard crust, a creamy center and a light, delicate angel food cake topper. Yum!
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