Sitting with my family, sharing some pizza in the park this weekend I couldn’t help but reflect on my podcast interview with Miriam Weinstein, author of “The Surprising Power of Family Meals”.

Since feeding the fam is kind of my jam, you can imagine I have long seen the value of sharing good food with my people.  Miriam’s book, however, reminded me of just how important this “ritual” truly is.  Family meals have been associated with lower incidence of teenage drug and alcohol use, lower teen pregnancy rates, and decreased risk for both obesity and eating disorders.  At the same time, they are also tied to getting better grades, better reading readiness in kindergarteners, and increased resilience in kids.

And what you eat…well, it kind of matters.  It seems that family meals help kids learn what constitutes a “reasonable” meal.  But, overwhelmingly, the benefits of the family meal come from the almost ridiculously simple act of just sitting together, sharing the same food, and facing each other.


It seems almost too good to be true.


However, as I sat on a blanket in the park with the five people I love most in this world, it was as though I could see all the truths Miriam reports unfolding before my eyes.  The food we ate (take-out pizza and canned carbonated beverages) was nutritionally questionable by many standards.  But, we were hungry and it was delicious.  We enjoyed every glorious bit of it.

My husband, who is an excellent story teller, talked to the kids about a mistake he had made that week and how that made him feel.  The kids listened, intently, and I understood that this was the process in action.  They were learning that DAD – the coolest guy ever— makes mistakes.  That sometimes DAD feels anxious and scared.  Sometimes DAD feels guilt.  DAD thinks about how he can do better next time.  Yet, DAD is still here, being awesome.

These stories are the grains of sand that form the castle in which kids come to realize that they too will make mistakes, but they too will be ok.  They too can persevere and actually thrive.   It might look like chatting over pizza, but in fact it is the recipe for building resilient children.

The kids themselves checked in, telling us their favorite and not-so-favorite parts about the first week back to school.  Looping us into their lives.  Updating us on the goings-on of first grade and reminding us of the curious dynamics of middle school.

And then they were gone.  Throwing footballs and playing on the swings.  But not before I snapped a photo – on my phone and in my mind – to remind myself that this was my chance to “see everyone there, just as they are tonight and never will be again.”

The power of the family meal is real.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to BE.  In fact, I suspect not-so-perfect works best.

If sitting down to eat with your family is not part of your regular routine, I highly encourage you to give it a try.  If it is something you already do, come to the table (or blanket) with a little more intention and a watchful eye for the magic that will surely present itself.

Listen to the Feeding the Family with Dr. Kristin Podcast w/ Guest Miriam Weinstein!