My best childhood memories are centred around my grandparents’ tables: casual breakfasts in the kitchen, summer lunches on the deck at the cottage, decadent holiday meals in the dining room. These memories also involve unforgettable foods like my Poppa’s Potato Soup and just-picked veggies out of the garden. What stands out even more for me is the togetherness and great conversation we had as a family. We’d have hot-topic debates, play geography games, listen to lessons taught by the grown-ups or tell silly jokes laced with laughter.
These large family occasions weren’t the only time we ate together. Growing up, the rule was that dinner was eaten as a family every night. As a special treat, we were occasionally allowed to eat our meal in front of the television, but those occasions were far and few between.
Today, however, family meal time throughout North America has become more of an exception than a rule and it’s 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 perform better at school. This same theory can be applied to adults, too.
Eating with parents means kids:
• Consume higher levels of fibre, 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.
Even better news is that these family mealtimes don’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 getting them involved gives them a stronger connection to the meal. It’s as easy as getting them to help with setting the table.
What if you’re a household with one or more people who struggle with different diet needs for allergies or food intolerances, weight loss or chronic conditions like diabetes? Think composed salads or build-your-own buffets to accommodate different diets and dislikes with everyone choosing exactly how their plate gets arranged.
Also, what if you don’t have a family to eat with every night? Invite a neighbour or friend over every week, organize potlucks in your building or in your neighbourhood, arrange a Skype meal with someone who can’t be there or take a cooking class where everyone dines together. There are always was to dine together.
Remember, whether you’re single or living as a family, mealtime doesn’t have to be a fussy four-course affair, just simple, wholesome food and good ‘ol food for thought will do.
For easy, quick recipes and ideas on involving kids in the kitchen or accommodating food sensitivities, ask our Nutrition Team at email@example.com.