Let’s Eat Together!
Eating As a Family Can Foster Good Eating Patterns & Relationships With Food
It has become incredibly common (unfortunately) for families not to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner together. Oftentimes, busy schedules, extracurricular activities and the general craziness of everyday life prevents us from preparing home cooked meals that will please everyone – and at a convenient time that works for all members of the family. Let’s be honest, that’s a lot of criteria for establishing a good routine for eating as a family! The mere concept may seem stressful and it is – trust me. However, there are so many benefits when it comes to eating as a family when we can make it happen – for both our physical and mental health. That’s why we should all make an effort to sit down for a healthy and delicious meal together – even if it means silencing our cell phones! I know it may not seem feasible EVERYDAY, but even if you start with once a week, it can make a big difference. Below I outline some of the key benefits that can come out of eating together:
FOSTERS GOOD EATING PATTERNS
Eating patterns refer to the foods we eat on a daily basis and how they fit our nutritional needs. Best case scenario, we should regularly be eating foods that are affordable and nutrient-dense. Nutrient density favors a whole-foods approach, one that focuses on incorporating plenty of plants, healthy fats, and lean protein into our diets! Because our children are eating the food we prepare for them, it’s important to encourage them to eat nutritious foods, while at the same time not pressuring them. Sometimes, it takes children 12 tries to like a certain food – be patient! If they don’t like something at first, try again later. Bottom line: kids are intuitive! They listen to their bodies and will eat when they’re hungry.
INTRODUCES NEW FOODS
Children love to emulate those around them – it’s quite literally how they learn to walk, talk and behave. That’s why kids are more likely to try foods that the people around them are eating – especially mom and dad. For example, eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables creates a positive atmosphere around them. Once these foods become a part of everyday life, children won’t find them “yucky” or “weird.” Instead, they will just seem “normal” – because, let’s face it, they are! Plus, it can inspire adults to eat and prepare more nutritious foods- just an added benefit.
PROVIDES A SENSE OF NORMALCY AND STABILITY
Eating dinner as a family provides children with stability and a sense of normalcy. As of lately, it’s likely that our schedules have become a bit too flexible. If you find it difficult to be productive or motivated to eat healthy right now, you are not alone! A great tip to instill routine is to check the schedules of each family member and set a time for dinner. Sitting down together around the kitchen table is an easy way to come together as a family, laugh together, and enjoy one another’s company. Dinner at a set hour can help children become familiar with their nightly rituals and bedtime routines, leaving us parents with some well-deserved alone time!
DISCONNECT AND ENGAGE
Now more than ever, we are constantly connected to our phones instead of each other. Plugged in all day, it’s hard to pay attention to nutrition or give our bodies the fuel they need as we are often eating on the go. Making it a priority to have dinner as a family once or twice a week is a great way to disconnect from texts, apps and social media in order to connect with our loved ones face to face. Studies show that less screen time positively affects both short and long term mental health. For kids, time away from the phone, iPad, and TV can have tremendous benefits like strengthening communicative skills and interpersonal relationships. Being present with one another, especially before bedtime, is also a great ritual to implement for a better sleep. Did someone say better sleep? Sign me up!
PROMOTES HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS WITH FOOD
Remember that your actions during meal times impact your children. Stay mindful. Rewarding kids with food or pushing them to finish their plates can actually create harmful habits such as overeating. A positive relationship with food allows us to stay healthy – physically and mentally – while enjoying the foods we love. On the other hand, anxiety around food can lead to eating disorders, obesity, and body dysmorphia. Eating as a family can actually support your family’s mental health and create a sense of community between loved ones.
Not yet convinced? Try it. Pick one day this week to unplug and eat together as a family. This shared meal can be breakfast, lunch or dinner! I can confidently say that after one family meal you won’t feel as though your day is spent making everyone a different meal, and you will feel more connected than ever! So go ahead and start today!