What do nearly 80 percent of teens rate as one of their favorite activities to do with their parents? The answer is eating dinner at home with their parents.

Eating at home with their parents surpassed eating at a fast food restaurant. They may not be able to articulate it but teenagers need a sense of unity, family ties and belonging that family meals provide. They also need that time to communicate and interact with their parents.

Studies have shown that teens who have dinner with their families two nights a week or less are at twice the risk of substance abuse as teens who have frequent family meals.

Eating more family meals together is associated with lower rates of depression, suicide and school problems and higher self-esteem and school engagement. Having family meals together is important to children of all ages. Children and teens eat healthier foods when families eat together, which contributes to healthier weights.

Consistent mealtimes allow children to feel secure that they will be fed. Regular mealtimes help prevent grazing on high calorie foods and allow children to come to the table ready to eat. When families come together over meals children are less likely to feel lonely and are less likely to eat to comfort themselves.

The following are several ways to promote family meals in the home:

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