Regardless of culture, religion or ethnicity, some of the most important times of our life are around a meal table. Yet Australians are missing out on the opportunity to use dinner time as a valuable opportunity to catch up with the family.
Research by Australian whitegoods manufacturer, Westinghouse, reveals that families are only eating together three times a week and one in five families don’t eat at the dinner table.
“The study shows that our busy lifestyles and hefty workloads are limiting the pleasure and tradition of family meals. On the occasions that the typical Australian family do manage to sit down together, they only spend around 24 minutes at the table,” said Westinghouse spokesperson and mother of two young daughters, Karen Martini.
Two thirds of parents admit that their family watches TV at dinner time, and in some households one or other of a family member can be using a computer, phone or tablet while they’re eating.
Martini said family dinner time is important and families should learn to make time to eat together and enjoy the time together.
“We want to encourage Australian families to embrace the regular family dinner time again and the importance this time brings to all members of the household. Spending time together and sharing meals at the table is invaluable for healthy eating habits and discussions of the day’s highs and lows.”
There are other benefits also.
A large scale study published in the American medical journal Pediatrics noted that one of the benefits of sitting down to have dinner together as a family is the impact on children’s weight. In a study of 8,500 American 4 year olds, researchers showed that those children who were exposed to three specific healthy behaviours – eating together as a family, sleeping for 10 hours a night and watching less than two hours of television on a weekday – were 40% less likely to be overweight or obese.
Another study by Washington State University and Harvard University identified other benefits of family dinner time as including improved communication amongst and between family members, better nutrition for the entire family, improved school performance and improved emotional and social wellbeing for children and adults.
Despite the fact that fewer Australian families manage to sit down together for a family meal, an overwhelming majority of parents (77%) would prefer to see it happen.
Martini said that the Westinghouse research showed that few Australians see dinner time as an opportunity to catch up as a family and, of those who do manage to sit down for dinner together, only 16% spend more than 30 minutes at the table.
“If it’s not possible every night of the week, then start small and commit as a family to having dinner together two or three times a week and increase it from there,” Karen says.
“Turn the TV off; make sure the kids have the same food to help develop their tastes; and let everyone around the table talk about their day – the highs and lows.”
In response to the research, Westinghouse has developed a new range of large capacity ovens.
“Not only do two thirds of families have to deal with ‘double shifts’ of dinners with different family members eating at different times, parents also want the opportunity to host a big family feast at important times of the year,” said Westinghouse Product Manager, Despina Mihailidis.
“Whether it be the traditional roast turkey for Christmas, a ‘big fat Greek wedding’, or having to juggle meals for different times on the same night for a busy family, the new 90cm ovens can do the lot.”
The Westinghouse research showed that the top rated home made dinner in Australia is the Sunday Roast or lasagne or pasta (22% each).