Our blog post today will deal with how we eat more than what we eat. Keeping in theme with our chili cook-off this week, we’ll discuss how eating socially with friends and family can affect our eating habits.
1) Getting kids involved in cooking and teaching them about food
It’s a little scary how many people I met in college who didn’t know how to cook anything past ramen noodles, mac & cheese and microwave meals – if it wasn’t for dining halls I don’t know if any vegetables would have been in anyone’s diets (and even then it’s questionable). When time is taken to have a family meal, use it as an opportunity to show your children what you are doing and why. Don’t take for granted that over time they will learn to cook on their own! As well, this can be a time to teach children what their food is and where it comes from. Just take a look at this clip from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and see why this is important:
Identifying Tomatos (Click for Link to Video)
Help your kids become self-sufficient when they leave the house by giving them the tools they need to cook healthy and delicious meals on their own – get them involved in the cooking process when you make dinner! (And maybe…just maybe…they’ll be more appreciative the time and effort you put in!)
2) Strengthen relationships
There is a plethora of studies and research out there that show the benefits of family meal time. Teens who eat meals with their family four or more times a week have higher academic performance, less substance abuse, decreased chance of disordered eating, lower depression and lower incidence of getting into fights than those who do not – even after research is controlled for other factors such as socio-economic status and family connectedness. European countries, in general, tend to place a higher emphasis on family meals, and research has been done to see how this affects youth:
“Data <on percentage of students whose parents eat their main meal with them around a table several times a week> were collected for 15-year-olds, with Italy at 93.8% (no surprise), followed by Iceland, France, and Netherlands. The US ranked near the bottom of the list at 22nd of 25 countries. The report analyzed six dimensions to see how well children and teens fare in various countries. These included material well-being, health and safety, education, family and peer relationships, behaviors and risks, and sense of being loved, valued, and included in families and societies into which they were born…The US and UK ranked lowest.”
These benefits don’t just exist for children either – adults benefit from social meals as well. Adults studied in residential homes who ate meals in groups were shown to have better health, more energy, stable weight and were more likely to participate in recreational activities.
3) Eating Slower!!
Here’s one way that social eating affects everyone in a beneficial way: Controlled eating! When we get together around a table, a meal can take up much more time than when we sit around a television or eat on our own. Taking more time in between bites to listen and talk can make your plate last longer, which can cause you to eat less. It takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to know that it’s full, so taking more time to eat the same amount of food can cause you to feel fuller. As well, taking more time improves ease of digestion, preventing indigestion.
So, stop by this week to sample some chili with friends at Empower! If you can’t get a chance to stop by, here’s a link for a healthy chili recipe to try on your own:
As well, here are some more links about the benefits of family and social meals and educating children about food:
- Food Education for Kids
- Family and Social Meals Information and Help
- Family Meal Statistics
- Family Meal Research and Ideas