NEW YORK — New research has found that four in 10 parents report having only three or fewer family dinners per week, leaving 42 percent feeling “worried.” That’s according to a new poll of 2,000 U.S. parents, which reveals that 56 percent believe having a shared meal together is one of the best ways to bond with their family, but 54 percent report not getting enough quality time together.
However, when families do sit down for at-home dinners, meals are full of laughter (20%) and good conversation (34%).
Commissioned by The Little Potato Company and conducted by OnePoll, the study found many parents say it would be easier to have more home-cooked family dinners if they meal planned ahead for the week (20%), had quicker, healthier meals to prepare (18%), and if everyone’s schedules coincided (18%).
Meals from the family cookbook mean the most
Parents believe that the important factors of a home-cooked dinner are: having a meal using a passed down or favorite family recipe (47%), having good conversations at the table (38%), and having all family members in the household present (34%).
Parents also shared what they want their kids to remember about family dinners — being able to share family time and connection (52%), knowing the importance of spending time with family (41%), the home-cooked meals themselves (40%), and wanting to learn how to cook (35%).
It differs by generation — millennial and Gen X parents want their kids to know the importance of spending time with family (43% and 34%, respectively), while 43 percent of Gen Z parents want their kids to have a love of food.
To encourage conversation with their kids, 47 percent of parents said they have a tradition at the dinner table, including 26 percent who like to share what they are grateful for and 17 percent who use a game or discussion starter to facilitate conversation during family dinners.
Parents reported spending more time in the kitchen, taking an average of nearly 45 minutes preparing a full meal at home, but only spending an average of about 36 minutes eating together with family.
“With after school activities and busy schedules, making family dinners happen at home on a regular basis isn’t easy,” says CEO and co-founder of The Little Potato Company, Angela Santiago, in a statement. “That’s why having options of nutritious whole foods that are pre-washed and quick to make – like The Little Potato Co.’s little potatoes – are important so families can spend less time in the kitchen and more time creating memories.”
A little bribe never hurts at dinnertime
Sometimes kids need a little encouragement to try different foods — 61 percent of parents incentivize their kids to eat certain foods on their dinner plates with later bedtimes (45%), more screen time after dinner (43%), dessert (42%), a favorite hobby (41%), a second helping of a food they do like (38%), and even cash (27%).
Close to three-quarters (73%) said eating meals together are more enjoyable if they’re also made together, and 18 percent want their kids to see dinner time as a fun part of the day.
Nearly three in five (59%) let their kids cook with them in the kitchen, so long as they’re at least 12 years old.
“Sharing a home-cooked meal with your family helps nurture a love for food and provides an opportunity for invaluable quality family time and conversation,” continues Santiago, a mother of four herself. “That’s why we’re passionate about making it easier for families to spend more time together around the table and feel good about eating whole foods, packed with nutrients.”
This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 American parents of school-aged children was commissioned by The Little Potato Company between February 1 and February 6, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).