Last weekend, I heard a great case for bringing families together with the simple act of eating at the table. There were the obvious reasons, such as teaching manners, developing social skills and resolving family problems.
I also thought about weight loss, nutrition and overall well-being.
According to a University of Illinois study published earlier this year in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people, particularly children, who eat at the dinner table are less likely to be overweight. Researchers say children learn when they are full while eating at the table, versus mindless eating in front of a screen.
Think about it. When you're at the table, you are more mindful about what you are eating. You enjoy it. You appreciate it. You taste, smell and savor the food. There's no need to scarf it down because there's no sense of urgency or busyness. You notice when you are full.
We know that when we have so much going on, we eat on the go, or while checking emails and Facebook messages. Just look around any restaurant, and you'll count numerous people with eyes gazing down at phones. Surely, they are not present in the moment. Then, it's easy to eat too much or too much of the wrong thing.
Eating at the table also can help keep our portions in check. While eating out, you're more likely to get a heap of food that could feed a couple of people. We often finish the platter because we pay good money for it.
Most importantly, home-cooked meals are more likely to be healthily made with whole food. Even with heavy entrees, we tend to add a green salad or extra veggies. We don't have preservatives and long-named additives to put in our food. We just cook real food.
It's time to rethink dinner. I, as others, like a nice dinner out, but for most of the week, we can certainly benefit from getting back to the table at home.
TIPS FROM ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS
Start slowly — add at least one more family meal than you had before.
Plan healthy menus together.
Set the table nicely.
Engage in conversation.
Turn off the TV, phones and anything else that makes noise.
For more information about eating at the table, read about the Family Dinner Project at www.thefamilydinnerproject.org.