September was National Family Mealtime month, and although September has passed, it’s great to recognize the importance of eating together with others. Even Canada’s Food Guide suggests eating meals with others as a part of healthy eating, and today we’ll be discussing the benefits of eating with others!
Benefits of eating together:
- Creating regular times when you can spend quality time with your loved ones to connect and talk with them
- Eating together is a great way to encourage your family members to take part in the planning and/or preparation of meals
- You can learn more about different foods and traditions, and may be more open to trying new foods
- By eating with young children, you can role model healthy eating behaviours and also help them to improve their development and communication skills
- For teens, spending time with loved ones can help them to develop healthy eating habits, maintain healthy weights, have better self-esteem, and may even help them with school achievements
How to eat with others regularly
If you don’t normally eat with others, it can be hard to get into a routine of eating meals with your loved ones, especially with everyone’s busy lifestyles. Here are some tips to start eating together:
- Schedule certain meals to eat with family. For example, choose dinner time to be a time where the whole family comes together and enjoys a meal together. You can start off slowly and increase the amount as you get used to it
- Eat with coworkers or friends on your lunch breaks
- Plan brunch dates with your friends or loved ones
- Get involved in community kitchens and eat meals with your neighbours
- Host dinner parties with friends and family
- Involve children and seniors in the meal process to help them socialize
Most beneficial ways to eat together
Meals together aren’t meant to be rushed or a chore, make sure that your meals are:
- Times when everyone puts their electronics and work away
- Positive spaces where people can talk about their days, connect with one another and to continuously teach your family about traditions, values, culture etc.
- Taken slow and not rushed so everyone may enjoy each other’s company and their food
Modeling healthy Eating Behaviour at the Dinner Table
For those with children and teens, it is important to model healthy eating behaviour to help young people develop good eating habits. Here are some ways to do so:
- Continue offering new foods and encourage children to try them. Continue offering foods that they like, and re-introduce foods they haven’t liked as much
- Encourage children to communicate using manners when they do not like a food (ex. “No thank you”)
- Offer foods that are typically disliked in new and exciting forms (ex. Broccoli with cheese)
- Encourage teens to eat nutrient-rich food and model that healthy eating is important
- Listen to your children when they say they are full, and do not force them to finish everything that is on their plate past this point
- Encourage your children/teens to eat slow and to enjoy their food.
Eating together can be simple and fun!