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Many see benefits of family dinners

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Sep. 21, 2014 at 10:37 p.m.


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BOUNTIFUL — Gov. Gary Herbert is encouraging all families to eat dinner together for National Family Day on Monday, and one man is helping the cause.

Chef Hai Fitzgerald helps families eat together every night at his restaurant, Thyme and Seasons.

“When I was growing up in Asia, family dinner was not only something that we do frequently, but it is a requirement,” Fitzgerald said.

His childhood tradition is something he wants his customers to experience more often.

“We’re in business to put families together,” Fitzgerald said. “Now what’s happening is we get so many distractions: football, soccer, field hockey. All those things drawing us away from what’s really critical.”

According to the Utah Department of Health, children whose families eat together are 33 percent less likely to try alcohol.

“Children who are engaged with their parents through supportive activities like frequent family meals are less likely to use harmful substances, more likely to be successful in school and have higher self-esteem and lower obesity rates,” said Tania Charette with the Utah Department of Health.

Yet a parent’s involvement in his or her child’s life drops by half between the sixth and 12th grades.

For Fitzgerald, eating dinner together as a family “is one of the cornerstones of a good family.”

His family not only helps in the kitchen, they join customers to keep their own tradition strong.

“So when we cook for people, we still cook and eat together. It’s one of the most important things a family can do to communicate, bond and show love to each other,” Fitzgerald said.

Utah’s 12 local health departments came together to create the website http://utahfamilymeals.org/, dedicated to bringing the family together around the dinner table. The Utah Department of Health also has a website with the benefits of family meals http://www.choosehealth.utah.gov/your-health/healthy-eating/family-meals.php.

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Nadine Wimmer

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