3 Ways the Family Dinner Table Can Benefit Nutrition
There used to be a day in America when families would gather around the dinner table to close out the evening with some good conversation and a great meal. Those days seem long gone in an era when most of us are running around from one thing to the next so quickly that we barely have time to grab something to eat. We think that needs to change. Believe it or not, reestablishing the family dinner table in your home offers a host of benefits, including improved nutrition.
It takes time and discipline to reestablish the family dinner table. But once done, families discover something they have been missing for too long: that shared time at the end of the day helps to build solid relationships and create lasting memories. It also helps to promote a healthier lifestyle through better eating.
Here are three ways the family dinner table can benefit nutrition in your household:
1. Expanding Food Choices
When the family lives such busy lives that they don’t have time to sit down for a good meal, the natural tendency is to eat prepared foods that can quickly be thrown into the microwave or get takeout several times per week. This leads to a secondary problem most of us run into without even knowing it: a lack of variety in our diets. We get comfortable with the same two or three foods that we eat over and over. This is terrible for nutrition.
Reestablishing the family dinner table means planning your meals ahead of your weekly or bi-weekly grocery shopping trip. What better way to broaden and expand your food choices than through menu planning? And with a broader menu comes more nutritional value – as long as menus are planned based on good habits.
2. Slowing down the Meal
Living life on the go also tends to cause us to eat much more quickly than we really should. The truth is that our bodies are designed to break down food and absorb the nutrients at a particular rate. Furthermore, it takes 15 to 20 minutes for the body to register that the stomach is full. These two factors suggest that slowing down to eat a more leisurely meal will benefit nutrition.
First, slowing down gives the body more time to digest food fully so that it can be used as efficiently as possible. Second, slowing down allows your body to recognize it is full, thereby resulting in less food being consumed. Between better absorption of nutrients and lower volumes of food consumed, you will be better off for sitting down at the dinner table.
3. Learning to Cook
Using the family dinner table as intended – that means NOT going to the grocery store and purchasing already prepared meals to bring home – forces family members to learn to cook. This is an excellent practice that often leads to better nutrition. How so? Because people pay more attention to what they eat if they are preparing it themselves.
We have found that one of the benefits of cooking is that kids can be taught to cook at the same time. Sharing cooking responsibilities along with menu planning helps to create a more cohesive bond among family members while at the same time expanding everyone’s knowledge of good nutrition.
Something as simple as re-instituting the family dinner table can go a long way to helping you and your family eat better. Think about it. Trimming your schedule a bit so that the family can enjoy the evening meal together is a very good idea!