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Many benefits of dining in together

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Dine-In Challenge set for Saturday

Think back. When was the last time your family gathered together for a family meal? If your last family meal seems like a distant memory, you can make a change by participating in the Dine-In Challenge on Family and Consumer Sciences Day.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, UT Extension in partnership with the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) encourages you to gather your family and dine-in together! Participating in the event is easy. Simply:

  1. Visit

  2. Complete the sign-up form and pledge to dine-in as a family on Dec. 3.

  3. On Dec. 3, prepare and eat a meal with your family.

Signing up for the dine-in event is simple, yet this simple act can have profound positive benefits for your family. According to Dr. Christopher Sneed, Extension specialist with UT Extension, family meals serve as a time for children to learn positive food habits. "Research shows children who eat meals with their families tend to have less rates of obesity, consume more nutrient-dense foods and are less likely to develop an eating disorder," Sneed said.

Even beyond these benefits, a host of other benefits can result from time spent as a family around the table. "Family meal times produce amazing effects on children's academic and social development," Sneed noted. Children who take part in regular family meals have greater vocabulary growth, fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance.

The key thing to remember is the process of actually sitting down as a family, having conversation and spending time together is the most important. Many families may worry they are not able to cook the "perfect" meal and thus forego the sitting down to family meal time. Worrying over preparing the perfect meal should not be a concern. Any healthy meal, whether it's a one-skillet recipe or something prepared using the slow cooker, is the perfect meal for family meal time.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and take the Dine-In Challenge. The time you spend around the family table on Dec. 3 may be the start of a new family tradition and the start of some amazing benefits for your children and your family.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on Dine-In Day, visit To learn more about this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes can be reached at or (615) 444-9584.

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