The psychology of eating is something that interests me deeply, why do we eat the food we eat? Why do we eat the way we eat? What forms these habits? Does all of this impact how we grow up and the life we lead? Some interesting reading for me during the week led me to discover some very interesting facts via the awesome magazine NewPhilospher, where there was discussion around the ritual that occurs every single day for the majority of humanity. The ritual was eating dinner, and the impact this single event can have on so many components of our life.
The article was brief, but was full of gems, I've taken the liberty to expand on the key points in the article. Each point could form an article of their own, yet are incredibly interlinked. Read on to discover the power of your dining table.
Families are more likely to dine sequentially, in different rooms or in front of the TV.
With our busy lives, dinner has become a brief moment for many of us, sustenance to close out the day and lead into an evening of rest (and TV!). The past 3 decades has seen the frequency of family dinners plummet a massive 30%, which means that in Australia only 38% of families regularly sit down for dinner each night. This number is interesting, and alarming particularly when you look at the importance of dining together for you and your children! I would love you to join me on the DINING TOGETHER mission, you will absolutely want to participate once you find out the benefits.
My tip: If you are one of the families described above, start with one non-negotiable "family dinner" date each week and make them fun (and 100% screen free). Soon your kids will look forward to the social experience, and this will bring your family together. Strong families dine together OK?
Dining together helps you eat better, keep weight down, limits depression and improve self-esteem.
This is a huge discussion point, probably worth discussing tonight over dinner tonight. The act of eating with others causes a few things to occur - 1. you eat more slowly (whilst talking), and 2. you talk about your day (the highs AND the lows). A study by Kim Seok-Young found a correlation between family dinners and lower depressive symptoms in children. Eating slower has also been linked to better digestion and ensuring you eat less.
My tip: take some time to chew slowly, and if you live by yourself, arrange dinner parties with your friends (I have a regular schedule with friends to ensure I get my dose).
Teenagers are less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, take drugs AND they IMPROVE their grades!
This is something that helps me understand why there are so many "kids playing up these days"! Teens that regularly sit down for dinner with others have been found to be less likely to take up smoking, drink alcohol or partake in drugs and will also improve their school results.
One particular study identified that family dinners resulted in a 40% lift in a group of teenagers receiving higher grades! I wonder if the simple act of conversation and engagement with your children over dinner is the secret to ensuring you have less adolescent breakdowns and a child that is happier with school? What do you think?
My tip: brain food combined with the social contact of eating dinner together is a great way to super-boost your kids and their brains!
Younger children will boost their vocabulary AND eat more fruit and vegetables!
This is the kicker! Have your children become picky gremlins who won't eat vegetables? One study from Harvard Medical School found the following:
"Eating family dinner was associated with healthful dietary intake patterns, including more fruits and vegetables, less fried food and soda, less saturated and trans fat, lower glycemic load, more fibre and micronutrients from food, and no material differences in red meat or snack foods."
Mealtimes are also crucial for vocabulary development for children, giving you an opportunity converse with them (and your family), which will most definitely help them learn more than just the words! Catherine Snow discussed this in her article discussing literacy development during mealtime.
My tip: make dinner time your chance to partake in a special process that I learn from the famous Bruce Campbell, WIFLE (What I Feel Like Expressing). Allow everyone to talk about what is on their mind (without interrupting) and decompress from their days.