Shared pleasures: Eating together

Family meals are something that are
rarely possible for busy people. Few working mothers have time to cook,
especially when there are so many fast food places, convenience foods and restaurants
to make dinner easy. However taking time to slow down and share a meal as a
family can be very important, whether it’s once a week or every day.

The biggest advantage to having a
family dinner is the fact that a homemade meal can be much healthier than
eating out. Meals are much more likely to be balanced when prepared at home.
Preparing balanced family meals can help to teach children the importance of
healthy eating and can help promote better eating habits for life.

“Nutritionally, children who eat at
least one meal a day with their family develop more nutritious eating habits
and do better at school as well as consume higher levels of fibre, calcium,
iron and essential vitamins, and are less likely to drink soft drinks and eat
fried food,” said Chad Collins, a registered dietician. “Children also usually
eat more healthy meals than they would if preparing or choosing meals on their
own.”

Preparing a meal at home doesn’t
have to be a huge task; make it fun by getting the whole family involved. Roles
can be divided into cooking, laying the table and washing up, for example. If
the entire family can work together to prepare and set up for the meal it will
not only take the pressure off the cook, but it will also be rewarding.

Dinner times should be made a
technology-free time with cell phones, game consoles and television turned off.
This means that sitting together around a table during a family meal can be a
very useful tool for parents, as it allows them a chance to communicate with
their children free of technology that can constantly interfere in our daily
lives.

For parents, having a chance to
catch up and touch base with children is vital as it can help parents stay
involved in their children’s lives. This, in turn, may help children feel that
they can speak openly and honestly with their parents, as they foster better
communication.

Not only does sitting around a
table give parents the opportunity to bond with their children but it also
gives them a chance to teach their children good table manners. Children will
be able to observe their parents manners, and in turn learn from them.

It is important for children to
learn manners at home as it offers a calm and civilised environment, in which
children are able to learn under less pressure. Trying to maintain good table
manners at family meals will also mean that children are given more
opportunities to practice their manners and learn from repetition. “Research
has shown eating together promotes more than healthier eating; mealtime
encourages conversation and interaction around the dinner table, which improves
a child’s vocabulary and communication skills. This leads to better performance
in school and fewer behavioural problems,” said Mr. Collins

Another huge advantage of having
meals together at home is that the family will start to build new traditions
and values. Having a tradition of a nightly meal, or even just a Sunday meal,
helps to give the family something to share together regularly.

Eating together is very important,
even for busy families, as it can be a very relaxing and enjoyable time for the
whole family. Having a chance to unwind and bond over family meals, after a
long and stressful day, can be something for people to look forward to.

FEATFamilymealtimeSTORY

Family time together for meals can be fun and includes everyone.
Photo: File
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