Why Dinner Plans with Friends and Family Could Help Your Mood

Last Updated on September 17, 2023

You’ve probably heard that it’s “important for families to eat meals together” but have you wondered why exactly that is? What are the benefits of eating with others? And what if you live by yourself and work by yourself – can you reap the same benefits by eating with friends?

It’s well-reported that when families eat together, children reap the rewards – doing better in school, being less likely to engage in risky behaviors, tend to eat healthier foods, and improve social skills, to name a few.  But “family dinner time” is a lofty goal for many American families. So how can you try to get more shared meals on the calendar without stressing about making it happen and what you’ll eat?

ButcherBox takes care of delivering high-quality meat to your front door. Use our proteins as the focal point for the dinner and round them out with some starchy sides and vegetables. Then, all you have to do is get the crew to gather ‘round the table at the same time. Once they smell what’s for dinner, we think it’ll be an easy sell!

Here are a few reasons why eating meals with others can do your body good and how to make time for this activity each week.

How Eating Meals with Others Can Help Your Health

You can help your heart. As long as you carve out some time for a shared meal with loved ones, (including friends) you can reduce stress, according to a survey from the American Heart Association (AHA). Feeling stressed often – called chronic stress – can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. That’s why the AHA launched “Together Tuesdays,” an initiative designed to encourage families to eat together. They even provide budget-friendly meal ideas and conversation starters.  That being said, if you’re focusing on eating a heart-healthy diet, start with lean proteins, like free-range organic chicken; 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef; and wild-caught salmon.

You’re more likely to feel satisfied with life. This article looked at research on shared meals and found that people who ate with others tended to report that they were happier with their lives and had an overall higher self-reported satisfaction level.  They also tended to have a wider social and emotional support network. BTW, if you want to feel more confident cooking in the kitchen, consider social media platforms to get helpful tips.

You might have an easier time managing your weight.  Eating together tends to promote sensible eating habits, which can help family members manage their weight, according to Stanford Medicine.

You work on intimacy. In general, when people sit down around a table, something happens that’s very different than when they’re doing other things while eating, says 

Jill Lamar, a Licensed Professional Counselor at Thriveworks in Philadelphia, Pa.

“Acknowledging, ‘we’re going to set our phones down, we’re going to pay attention to each other, and we’re going to truly engage’… it will kind of breed an emotional intimacy that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”

You’re strengthening social relationships. The more that you do something like share a meal together with a friend over a table, the easier it is to have real conversations and bolster your friendship. Conversing is better than simply “texting” conversations, says Lamar. “It builds a kind of emotional intimacy that I think is missing from a lot of friendships today.” You or your friend might be more likely to open up about a difficult topic and share vulnerability when you’re connecting over a meal instead of a text conversation.

You’re fostering connection. While having a meal, it’s important to stare into each other’s eyes and truly engage,” suggests Lamar. “I recommend it for families and when I do couples counseling. I insist couples find time to have at least one evening a week where they are eating a meal by themselves, looking into each other’s eyes, and talking about things other than facts [about what’s going on in their lives]. Focus on the things that drew you together in the first place.”

How to Make Time for Shared Meals

Plan it in your calendar. Look at the schedule ahead for the next week or two and consult with everyone involved to agree on a day and time. If that’s brunch, breakfast on the weekend, or a midday lunch with your partner, block that out on physical and digital calendars. Have an idea of what you’ll prepare and feel free to delegate tasks if you’re inviting company over.

Start small. If your family is very busy and rarely eats meals together, don’t put pressure on yourself to sit down every night, create a fancy meal and expect an enlightening experience. Try for one evening weekday meal and one weekend meal. Find pockets of time where you can incrementally add more meals in the coming weeks.

Invite friends over. Use your latest ButcherBox delivery as an excuse to invite a friend, neighbor, or family member over for dinner. Let them know that you “can’t possibly eat all of this yourself!” and would love to cook for them.

Put phones away. Show by example and let the family know this is going to be a screen-free meal. This let’s everyone know that you’re choosing to be intentional with your time together, says Lamar. 

Share a meal with a coworker. Make lunch plans with a colleague and commit to stepping away from work for at least an hour if you can spare it. You could bring homemade leftovers, visit the company cafeteria or go out to a restaurant for lunch. You might even return to work feeling energized and motivated! One survey found that employees who took lunch dates reported higher overall job satisfaction and more engaged at work.

Turn it into a date. You already know when your ButcherBox delivery will arrive. Plan on whipping up a special recipe within a day or so and inviting over someone you’d like to impress with a delicious meal. Check out our recipes and cooking guides for ideas and skills to practice.

Diana Kelly Levey is a freelance writer, editor, and author who's been writing about food and lifestyle topics for over 15 years. She's been published in Men's Health, Real Simple, AllRecipes, Reader's Digest, Prevention, and more. Lately, she loves honing her grilling skills and tweaking dinner recipes to accommodate toddlers and her meat-and-potatoes-favoring husband.
You can learn more about Diana on her website www.dianakelly.com and follow her on Twitter @DianaKelly or Instagram @DianaKellyLevey.