Canada’s Food Guide encourages us to “eat meals with others”. Sitting down to a meal with family, friends, neighbours and/or others helps to promote quality time and communication amongst people. Eating a meal at the table is a great time to share and connect, enjoy and relax, and talk about your day. Besides bringing people together, group mealtime allows people to explore and try new foods.
Developing Healthy Eating Habits and Behaviours
There are many benefits to eating with others, especially for children. Shared mealtime provides the child an opportunity to explore new foods and flavours and establish healthy food routines and patterns. When you model healthy eating or a child sees others at their table making healthy choices, they are more likely to enjoy and accept these options as well. Children whose families and/or peers regularly sit down to eat meals together tend to make better food choices and eat more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains.
Serving family-style meals is a great way to get everyone involved, as everyone can make their own plates based on their food preferences and hunger levels. The “division of responsibility” by Ellyn Satter is about the dual responsibility of feeding. According to this approach, the parent/caregiver is responsible for what, when and where the child eats. The child has the responsibility of deciding how much and whether to eat the food offered. Family-style meals allow all members, including children, to feel autonomous in their food choices and quantities. This meal style can even encourage kids to try new foods that they may have previously rejected.
Preparing and eating nutritious meals can often be difficult, especially on busy weeknights with children and parents on different schedules. Planning ahead of time and involving the whole family in the meal process helps create routine and sets an environment for a positive mealtime experience. Additionally, children who are involved in the meal preparation and/or planning process are more likely to enjoy and actually eat the food served.
For more information about the importance of eating with others go to Canada’s Food Guide.