Friday, May 20, 2016

Awesome Reasons to Eat Family Meals at Home

Life is often hectic, and filled with responsibilities. Nonetheless, the ritual of eating meals around the kitchen or dining room table can help you and your loved ones feel centered, nourished, and energized. Whether it’s your nuclear family, your life partner or roommate, or a group of congenial friends, eating meals at home together is salve for the spirit, and does wonders for wellness.

 A consistent habit of eating meals together bolsters everyone’s sense of well-being. According to data collected in the National Survey of Children’s Health, 48% of youth surveyed ate a meal together with their families every day during the previous week. Additional studies show that children who knew a lot about their family history, through family meals and other interactions, had a closer relationship to family members, higher self-esteem, were less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and had a greater sense of control over their own lives.

Gathering with folks to break bread is a relaxing, restorative social function. It’s a great time to put aside electronic devices and daily tasks temporarily. Partaking in regular family meals establishes a tradition of unity as well as provides an opportunity to hone communication skills. Mealtime talk demonstrates by example the “how-to” of polite, effective conversation. Each person involved will have the experience of taking turns to share the happenings of the day, light moments, and the joys and sorrows of being part of the human race.

Slow Roasted Black Eyed Peas, Roasted Carrots, Greens and Sprouts

Research indicates that home cooked meals reap mighty nutritional benefits. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has found meals and snacks based on food prepared away from home contained more calories per meal than those based on at-home food. Away-from-home food was also higher in ingredients that Americans over-consume (sodium, sugar, and saturated fat) and lower in nutrients that Americans under consume (calcium, fiber, and iron).

Although it requires planning, know how, and time to assemble and serve a healthy meal at home, you and your family or friends can share responsibility for prepping meals, setting the table, and clean up. When you consciously choose to incorporate a variety of fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and fruit into meals served at home, you and your loved ones will get back on the wellness track. Purchase these foods at the peak of freshness and you’ll get more of the body’s daily requirement for vitamins, protein, minerals, complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, fiber, water, and antioxidants. Menu planning and cooking food for oneself and others are positive life skills. It’s good training for both youngsters and oldsters. The first group grows up and the second may lose a partner through divorce or death. Both kinds of individuals often need to fend for themselves as they live on their own.  

You can design a more relaxing ambiance for healthy eating and good communication at home than in many restaurants. When you eat at a fast food place or even a moderately priced restaurant, more than likely you will be bombarded by loud music or offensive smells like excessive perfume or rancid cooking oils. Perhaps your serenity is disturbed by people at a nearby table, who shout into their cell phones or are accompanied by a crying baby.

At home, you can regulate the air conditioning or heat to your liking, you won’t get a rush job, or be served by ineffective or rude wait staff. Although there are no large-scale studies to show that it’s more cost effective to dine at home, I’ve found that if I plan ahead, buy sale items and in-season, local produce, and freeze what I can’t use for another meal, I save money and time shopping and cooking. An informal study I conducted indicates that all those interviewed do think it makes good sense to eat more meals at home. Here’s a link comparing time and money saving of a Fast Food Meal vs. a Home-cooked One.

If you eat at home, there’s no need to drive to an out of the way location or get tied up in traffic, before you can eat that meal. Even if you pick a restaurant that’s close-by, it’s hard to assure the cook doesn’t add too much oil, salt, sugar, or processed ingredients rather than serve a low sodium, low fat, whole food meal.

Family connections require attention to sustain them. Make it a point to eat at least one meal together daily, and you will automatically reserve a place in your busy schedule for shared time. Often, it’s the only time when you and your loved ones aren’t rushing to get somewhere else. Make family meals as uncomplicated as possible. To give them a festive flair, serve foods on dinner wear instead of paper plates. You don’t need a special occasion to use a tablecloth and cloth napkins. Decorate your home with flowers and candles to celebrate the next birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other special occasion, when you might have been tempted in the past to eat out. A delicious home cooked meal conveys caring and interest in the people you cook for.
When you and your family eat nourishing food at home, it broadcasts a positive message about warm sentiments and a passion for good health. For fun, gather individual family members together each week, when no one has to leave early. Stay in your pajamas, and each help prepare a meal that includes lean protein and complete carbohydrates, instead of fattening bacon, home fries, and eggs. Before too long, you’ll realize your clothing has gotten looser and it's much more cozy to stay put, than it is to drag yourself out in that rainstorm, heat, or other inclement weather to have a meal in a restaurant. Celebrate the joy of eating the earth’s bounty at home with family and friends. Nurture your body, mind, and spirit by entertaining and eating healthfully at home more often.
The quotation for today follows:
“To make changes like this more widespread we need action both cultural and political. The cultural lies in celebrating real food; raising our children in homes that don’t program them for fast-produced, eaten-on-the-run, high-calorie, low-nutrition junk; giving them the gift of appreciating the pleasures of nourishing one another and enjoying that nourishment together.” Mark Bittman
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  1. HI Nancy,
    I love this article. I think if more families would eat meals together at least a few times a week it would could make such a difference in their children's life and help us as nation. I find it almost impossible to eat in a restaurant due to smells and not knowing what in the food - many foods come in prepackaged when you ask the ingredients so it is not safe for me to eat due to food allergies. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays. Pinned & sared on google !

    1. Thanks Marla for your comments and support. Wishing you a productive and happy day. Nancy A.

  2. I love this post! It is so true, I heard a segment on Public Radio recently that stated the #1 thing you can do to improve your family's health & success is to sit down to a family meal at least 5 nights a week. We make every effort to do that, even if we are eating a bit late on some nights. Thanks for the tips & info :-)

    1. Thanks Angela for your comments. There are several research studies (including from Cornell and Columbia University) that indicate how important family mealtime is to health & success. Keep up the good work and enjoy it too. Nancy A

  3. When I was growing up, we always ate dinner together. It was the most important family sharing time of the day. We enjoyed the time together and I helped build bonds and life lessons that I have cherished for life. Thank you for sharing Awesome Reasons to Eat Family Meals at Home with us at the Plant-Based Potluck Party. I'm pinning and sharing.

    1. Thanks for your comments and support Deborah. Understand about family bonds and mealtimes. Wish more people would realize what you and I do. Believe sharing a post like this will help. Nancy A.

  4. Wow that meal looks so delicious. I do think most people do better on cooked meal rather than raw. And definitely do better eating at home most of the time. Thanks for sharing on Let's Get Real Friday Party.

    1. Thanks Karen and oh my. Just noticed I forgot to reply. Excuse the slip up. Love the Let's Get Real Friday Party and as soon as I have a food post, I'll be back posting. I do look at the FB version even when I don't have a post and spread the word by pinning and sharing when I can. Nancy A.

  5. Family mealtime is essential to good communication and strong family relationships! I am so delighted that you shared Awesome Reasons to Eat Family Meals at Home at the Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party!Thank you so much for sharing your gems and for your support! Pinning and sharing this! All the best, Deborah

    1. Thanks Deborah. It's a pleasure to join the party and celebrate good health and natural living with you. Wishing you a pleasant evening. Nancy A.

  6. Great post on the value of healthy foods and family life! I will share this on Facebook.

    1. Thanks Carol for the support. I wish you a blessed day. Nancy A.


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