It’s official - families that regularly eat together tend to eat more healthily than families who rarely eat together. Research in the UK found that children who always ate family meals were more likely to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Seeing a parent eat fruit and vegetables also improves intake.
We all want to save money were we can, and preparing one family meal is often substantially cheaper than having an endless supply of ‘grazing’ foods available for snacking or having ‘ready meals’ if your family are all eating ‘a la carte’! Planning meals offers a good opportunity to get the kids involved in grocery shopping, preparation of meals, or even setting the table – all life skills for the future.
Sitting down together allows time for families to catch up on busy lives, and find out how everyone’s day has gone. Eating together can be a great social occasion, especially if the telly, mobiles, and other devices are banned for the duration of the meal!
Having the telly turned off also allows people to actually taste the food they are eating. Being more ‘mindful’ about food has been shown to lead to us eating fewer calories whilst still enjoying the experience of eating. As food is eaten more slowly it can be savoured, and your brain gets the chance to tell you that you are full. It may also lower your risk of getting indigestion or heartburn.
So why not try to make that effort to sit down as a family and allow yourself the time to have a meal together – even if you start with once a week, set that habit. The fringe benefits can be huge.
By Cara Cunningham, community dietitian. For more information on diet and nutrition, please contact the Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster at (044 ) 9395518 or [email protected].