Why eating together matters
Is the traditional family dinner a thing of the past?
From the families I speak to, it’s not that we place less of an importance on eating together today; we simply don’t have the opportunity to get everyone together on a regular basis.
Studies show time and time again that eating together has great benefits for everyone involved, especially for children. It lets us share in balanced, wholesome mealtimes, and helps to stave off unhealthy eating habits. It’s is also a perfect environment for kids to learn how to conduct conversations, observe good manners, listen, solve conflicts and compromise.
Eating together at the table is a missed opportunity if you’re not gathering over a nourishing meal. The food shouldn’t be secondary to the conversation. If you have children, get them involved in prepping meals. They are far more likely to eat something they’ve prepared themselves than something you’ve put in front of them.
I find out more about what my grown-up children are doing, thinking and feeling when we sit down and share a meal together than at any other time. Whether we’re catching-up, debating or sometimes disagreeing, that time helps us to bond.
So how often should we be eating together? Let’s face it, gathering as a family at the dinner table seven days a week is near on impossible. The main thing is to aim for around four shared meal occasions each week.
Look for ways to economise on your time in the kitchen. Cook one-pot meals, or make a double batch of fish pie or casserole over the weekend, then freeze portions for homemade midweek meals in minutes.
Every Friday after school, I would turn the kitchen over to my children to cook a meal. I would give them a choice of dishes to pick, then they’d get to work (with a little help and guidance). They loved to transform the kitchen or dining room into a restaurant and serve-up their cooking conquests to the adults. It’s these occasions that helped them to build on their kitchen skills – and their self-esteem.
I’ve produced some fantastic meals for Gousto such as my Brilliant Beef Enchiladas and Fruity Chicken Curry which are really easy to prepare, but also give children the chance to learn new kitchen skills and exercise their creativity.
Having spent more than 25 years equipping families with the tools, ideas and inspiration to enjoy good food, I know how powerful food can be in bringing families together. Let’s make a conscious effort to ensure it’s a core part of regular family life.