In today’s modern life, we spend most of our time on commuting, working, shopping, and yes, even going to gym. This leaves little time for cooking and eating healthy meals together as a family. Children have busy schedules and it is so easy coming home at night to opt for the easy way out. Doing fast and easy foods such as pasta and sauce and let everyone grab and eat at their own time, usually in front of the TV.
HOWEVER, as a nation (and world) we are faced with some challenging times that have forced us all to spend some time in our houses and with our families. It has given us a bit more time to prepare and enjoy meals together as a family (if we are lucky enough to be surrounded by them during this time).
During this period of lockdown why not try have more of your meals around the table? This could also be with your roommate, partner, sibling or virtually with a friend. There are many positives of eating as a “family”. Research has shown benefits far more than what you might consider. They can be divided into nutritional, emotional, social, and educational.
Try to schedule a specific meal time and arrange activities to allow for the meals to be eaten together. This might mean that Dad has to finish work a little earlier or arranging work to start earlier. Family meals are the glue to hold a busy family together. It should be enjoyed with no other distractions including the TV/LED screens or even toys.
Eating together provides a time to get connected. It helps children feel loved, safe and secure. Several studies have demonstrated that eating with the family more frequently is associated with better psychological wellbeing, a lower risk of substance use, delinquency, and greater academic achievement. Conversation at the dinner table allows the family to discuss the day’s events, to share feelings, opinions and to learn more about each other and what is happening in everyone’s lives.
It is a perfect time for parents to be the important role model. Not only for table manners, or trying new foods, but eating together allows parents to model healthier eating habits. Sharing food is important as children are more likely to eat foods that their parents or older siblings are also eating. Research demonstrates that children eating together with their family at a table, consume more fruits and vegetables and therefore more nutrients such as calcium, iron, and fibre. In addition, children learn more words, improve their vocabulary and communication skills.
Infrequent meals, too much snacking and eating apart from the family are a predictor of childhood overweight and obesity. Additional research also shows that regular family meals could mean your child is 12% less likely to be overweight. This lowered risk appears to be linked to the healthier eating habits. Children who sit down for meals with their family are 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating (overeating or avoiding eating as a means of manipulation) and 24% more likely to eat healthier foods.
The benefits of family meals or eating together could include:
Turn family mealtimes into a safe haven for quality time. Make it a team effort by encouraging your children to join in with the purchasing and preparation of the food. They can also help by laying the dinner table and will then feel more encouraged to enjoy a healthy meal together.
Try use this lockdown period to find the joy in sharing meals with loved ones (even if it is virtually for now). These habits and new routines can then hopefully be carried through into the future.
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