By Nicole Fetterly, RD
My best memories of childhood are centered around my grandparents’ tables—whether a casual breakfast in the kitchen, a summer lunch on the deck at the cottage or an all-out holiday meal in the dining room. They all involve good food—like my Poppa’s Potato Soup and just-picked veggies out of the garden. But even more importantly, is the togetherness and some great conversation—from hot topic debates to geography games to inappropriate jokes.
Although these large family occasions weren’t every day, it was also the rule that dinner was eaten as a family every night and only for a special treat every once in a while was it allowed to be in front of the television. Today, family meal time has become more of an exception than a rule and it is way too common for take-out, television and tablets to be involved.
Research shows that children who eat at least one meal a day with their family develop more nutritious eating habits and do better at school and this same theory can be applied to adults too.
Eating with parents means kids:
- Consume higher levels of fiber, calcium, iron and essential vitamins, and are less likely to drink soft drinks and eat fried food.
- Usually eat more healthy meals than they would if preparing or choosing meals on their own.
- Are twice as likely to eat the 6 servings of vegetables and fruit each day needed for optimum health
- Improve their vocabulary and communication skills, leading to better performance in school and fewer behavioural problems.
- Can follow a parent’s example, demonstrating healthy food choices and behaviours.
- Achieve a sense of belonging and learn family values and traditions.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated! A simple, balanced meal can come together in 15 or 20 minutes, especially if everyone pitches in to help. Kids can start cooking at any age and can help with setting the table. Getting them involved gives them a stronger connection to the meal.
And if you don’t have kids, it’s still important to eat with others. Invite a neighbour or friend over every week. It doesn’t have to be a fussy four-course affair. Just simple, wholesome food and good ‘ol food for thought.
Some households struggle these days with different diet needs—perhaps someone has an allergy or food intolerance, maybe someone else is trying to lose weight or manage a chronic condition like diabetes. But eating together doesn’t have to mean eating the exact same dish. Composed salads or ‘build-your-own’ buffets can be a great way to accommodate different diets and dislikes with everyone choosing exactly how their plate gets arranged.
For easy, quick recipes and ideas on involving kids in the kitchen or accommodating food sensitivities, ask our Nutrition Team! And join us for a cooking class on Managing Food Intolerances, from the low FODMAP diet to gluten and dairy-free dishes.