Late night work meetings, soccer practice, tutor sessions, etc.—these and other activities that make your schedule hectic make sitting down for a family meal seem impossible. It seems more common that families on-the-go are eating portable granola bars for breakfast and stopping at drive-through’s for dinner.

But according to the Importance of Family Dinner IV, a report from National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, “59% of families report eating dinner together at least five times a week—an increase from only 47% in 1998.”

So if you’re not part of the 59%, here are some reasons why you should make time to sit the whole family down for dinner more often:

Relieves Stress

A ruthless boss, back-to-back meetings and a workload piled up to the ceiling—if you have a demanding job, finding time to eat with your family may leave you feeling less stressed.

In 2008, researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study of IBM workers and found that “sitting down to a family meal helped working moms reduce the tension and strain from long hours at the office.”

You Control Your Portions

Going out to a restaurant can seem more convenient for your time, but it’s definitely not convenient for your health. As the portion sizes grow, so do the number of calories (the average restaurant meal has 60% more calories than a homemade meal). And when you’re presented with more food, you eat more food…even when you’re not truly hungry.

Better Grades

According to the CASA report, 20% of teens that eat with their family fewer than three times a week get C’s or lower on their report cards. Family meals give children a chance to have conversations with adults. Not only does this give them an opportunity to observe how adults use words with each other, but it builds their vocabulary, too.

Saves You Money!

According to the national Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007, the average household spent $3,465 on meals at home, and $2,668 on meals outside of the home. However, that $2,668 spent on meals at restaurants and fast food joints only accounts for about 30% of meals in the year. That’s about $8 per meal outside the home, and only about $4.50 per each meal made in your own home.

So no matter how exhausting your day at work was, change your night schedule, skip the fast food and have your family sit down to a home-cooked meal. Both you and your family will reap the benefits in no time.

Check out CNN.com for an extended list of the importance of family dinners.

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