Think family-style meals don’t have a place in today’s high-speed culture? Wrong. Families who gather around a table at mealtimes often reap dietary and social benefits when compared with families who don’t share meals, according to a new Rutgers University study published by Time.

For the study, researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey reviewed 68 studies on family meals, specifically surveys that measured the atmosphere and frequency compared with the nutritional quality of kids’ food and their risk of weight gain.

Findings showed that children who ate more family meals tended to eat less junk food and more fruits, vegetables, fiber and vitamin-rich foods. Children in dinner-sharing families also tended to have a lower body mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) than those who didn’t congregate at suppertime. In addition, teens who frequently ate at the family table showed fewer symptoms of depression compared with youngsters who ate at home less often, and they were more likely to say that their family was supportive. What’s more, a previous Columbia University study showed that teenagers who ate five or more family dinners per week reported significantly less access to and consumption of illegal drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

“We believe that spending that family time together may provide a platform allowing parents and children to interact and for parents to teach children healthy habits,” said Jennifer Martin-Biggers, a doctoral research student at Rutgers.

But investigators found that frequency of meals wasn’t the only thing that mattered. The quality of family meals was also important. Families who watched TV while eating or who ate fast food together did not share the same dietary and social improvements when compared with those who ate meals around the dinner table.

Click here to read about the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, a tool to help people of African descent reconnect with the healthful culinary traditions of the African diaspora—foods not only from the African continent but also from the American South, the Caribbean and South America.