#EatTogether

Here at the #domesticphd we passionately believe in eating in moderation and enjoying the foods you love with the ones you love! Eating is essential to provide us with the nourishment our bodies need. Eating is a routine so ordinary in our busy days that it can often be taken for granted. But eating is so much more. If you don't believe me, watch this video. I actually cried. 

This post is not an ad or support for President's Choice, but it is very much in support of the #EatTogether movement.

Now that you've watched the video, I'll tell you why I cried. I cried because eating is something we all have in common regardless of background or beliefs- it brings us together- something we could all use more of these days, I think. I cried because it is this connection that makes eating together so magical- it provides us with the opportunity to share, learn, teach and create new and strengthen old(er) relationships. I also cried because in our very busy society, eating together has fallen to the wayside in favour of the "eating standing up over the sink on your way out the door" or the "balance your plate on your lap while watching Netflix" meal (don't lie, we've all done it). 

What's the harm in a few drive-through meals on the way to x, y, z activity/event you ask? 

Family meals = physical, mental, and emotional benefits 

The benefits of family meals for children have been well researched. However, many of these benefits don't expire when you start paying taxes (or any other "adult" activities)**. But here's what the research says about children and adolescents who eat frequent family meals (i.e. 5-7 days a week): 

  • Better dietary intake (more fruits and veggies)  
  • Lower likelihood of developing an eating disorder
  • Lower risk of substance abuse 
  • Improved academic performance
  • Lower rates of obesity 
  • Higher rates of self-esteem 
  • Lower risk of depression 

**I'm all for arguing that a family doesn't have to be made up of parent(s) and kids. Grab your best friend, partner, neighbour across the hall or any combination and I'm willing to bet you will also reap some of these benefits too!

Bring back the Family Meal

With all of these benefits, it is quite concerning to me that research findings show that adolescents are eating fewer family meals. Fewer family meals mean less of the benefits listed above. With yesterday being "Bell Let's Talk" day, it reminded me how important engaging in preventative activities are (not that I don't fully believe that much more is also needed for systematic level changes to funding and access to services). Sitting together usually causes people to talk- and talking and connecting and pausing in our busy lives is good for everyone's mental health. This decrease in family meals also means that the idea of eating together may be further lost among the next generation. In our over-worked society where connecting with others is often done digitally through text, snapchat or the liking of Facebook posts, actually coming together face to face is a less frequent occurrence.

Eating together shouldn't have to be a quote, unquote "movement". But it is. So turn off your TV. Put away your phone. Grab some other humans and eat your food together! (It really can be that simple). 

So how do you find time to #EatTogether?! 

  • Find a time that works for everybody. The benefits of eating together are not limited to supper time. Breakfast or lunch work better for you? Go for it! 
  • Remember it's QUALITY over QUANTITY! You don't have to start eating your meals together everyday of the week. Start with one or two and go from there. Also remember that not every meal needs to be a full-on Thanksgiving affair. In my own research we find that families sit for an average of 20 minutes when eating. That's less time than watching one TV show. Believe me, you have the time! 
  • Batch cooking or making use of a crockpot can help solve the problem that comes along with eating together- also finding time to cook. Having every member of the family join in on the process can be fun and also help cut down on time. Check out the Family Dinner Project website for meals that can be prepared in 15 minutes or less. The Guelph Family Health Study also has a great cookbook with tried and true recipes that are quick, healthy and easy to prepare. You can download the cookbook here

Enjoy! 

xo Kathryn

---

Want to know more?! Here's the research! 

  1. Neumark-Sztainer D, Hannan PJ, Story M, Croll J, Perry C. Family meal patterns: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103(3):317–22.
  2. Ackard DM, Neumark-Sztainer D. Family mealtime while growing up: associations with symptoms of bulimia nervosa. Eat Disord. 2001;9(3):239–49.
  3. Fulkerson JA, Story M, Mellin A, Leffert N, Neumark-Sztainer D, French SA. Family dinner meal frequency and adolescent development: relationships with developmental assets and high-risk behaviors. J Adolesc Health. 2006;39(3):337–45.
  4. Neumark-Sztainer D, Wall M, Story M, Fulkerson JA. Are family meal patterns associated with disordered eating behaviors among adolescents? J Adolesc Health. 2004;35(5):350–9.
  5. Neumark-Sztainer D, Eisenberg ME, Fulkerson JA, Story M, Larson NI. Family meals and disordered eating in adolescents: longitudinal findings from project EAT. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(1):17–22.
  6. Eisenberg ME, Olson RE, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Bearinger LH. Correlations between family meals and psychosocial well-being among adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(8):792–6.
  7. National Centre for Addiction and Substance Abuse: The importance of family dinners VII. Columbia University; 2011:2–19.
  8. Neumark-Sztainer D, Wall M, Fulkerson JA, Larson N. Changes in the frequency of family meals from 1999 to 2010 in the homes of adolescents: trends by sociodemographic characteristics. J Adolesc Health. 2013;52(2):201–6.
  9. Walton K et al. Secular trends in family dinner frequency among adolescents. BMC Res Notes. 2016; 9(35): DOI: 10.1186/s13104-016-1856-2.