I love visiting my parents, because I always get invited for dinner. Eating a delicious meal while we tell each other about the day we had is refreshing and relaxing! Having family meals on a regular basis is encouraged because of how it impacts what foods we eat and our overall health.
Healthy eating is important to stay healthy and to prevent health issues related to nutrition such as heart disease and diabetes. Eating a well-balanced diet also helps children focus more in classrooms, improving their school performance. Families who often eat together are more likely to eat healthy foods including fruits and vegetables, foods high in fibre, whole grains, and foods lower in saturated fats, sugar and salt. Eating as a family can also lead to more family bonding, and children are less likely to abuse drugs (ex. tobacco, alcohol and marijuana) or have feelings of depression.
How can families make time to eat together? Planning meals ahead of time takes the stress off of last minute dinner plans like ordering in, eating out or cooking a quick meal that isn’t very nutritional (ex. pizza). Plan in advance according to your family schedule to best prepare for the week.
Involving your children in meal planning and preparation can be exiting for them. Asking them what kind of fruits and vegetables they enjoy most and bringing them to the grocery store are strategies to increase their interest in healthy meals. You can also involve your children by having them help you prepare meals to encourage them to learn more about food and have more confidence in the kitchen. As a result, they will more likely prefer to cook at home as they get older.
Watching TV during meals can lead to overeating unhealthy foods. Mindful eating is the concept of being aware of what you eat, taking your time to enjoy your food and recognizing when you are hungry or full. Prevent distracted eating by turning off your TV and putting away your phone during meals. This will encourage you and your family to be more mindful and make healthier food choices.
Eating with family and friends gives us a chance to connect and enjoy the foods we love together. Next time you sit down with your family to eat, turn on some music, put your screens away, ask your kids about their day, share stories, clean up together and end the night with a fun game.