​If you’re a child of the 90’s, or raised children in the 90’s, a purple dinosaur probably taught you that ‘sharing is caring’. Although he may have been talking about sharing toys, there’s something to be said about sharing meals too.

To say that Canadians are busy people may be an understatement. When it feels like time is scarce, it can be difficult to make time to connect with family or friends to share a meal. Roughly one-quarter to one-third of families never or seldom eat together as a family. But it’s important to share meals. It allows people to connect, to share traditions, learn, communicate, listen and helps us eat a more balanced diet. Sharing meals is an enriching experience for people of all ages-from children to older adults.

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The biggest barriers to eating together are busy schedules like work and evening activities. Balancing a busy schedule certainly takes a little bit of creativity, but everyone benefits when you make the effort to eat in the company of others!

  • Children who eat with their families tend to have more nutritious diets, do better in school, have a lower risk of being overweight and less risk of eating disorders.
  • Teens who share meals with their families are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol or get involved in serious fights.
  • Adults who eat with family and friends tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI), drink fewer carbonated beverages and eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Older adults who eat as part of a group eat better quality foods and in a greater quantity, helping to improve nutrient intake and lowering the rates of malnourishment.

Now, whether out to dinner with friends or at home around the table with family, we have all experienced “phubbing“. What is that you might ask? Phone snubbing, it’s when someone ignores their real-life companions in favour of their phones or other devices. A 2015 study found that 46.3% of participants experienced this regularly from their loved ones. As addicting as phone may be, it is possible to have a fun dinner with friends and family without anyone using their devices…I promise!

If you’ve exhausted all your usual topics of conversation and caught up on each other’s days, a well-worded question can go a long way. Try and ask questions that require more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

  • If you won $5 million, what’s the first thing you would buy?
  • If you could eat only one food for an entire year, which one would it be?
  • What’s the funniest or strangest thing that happened to you today?
  • If you could have named yourself, what name would you have picked?
  • If you could travel back in time, where would you go?

Sharing a family meal doesn’t have to only mean dinner! If you have hectic evenings, share breakfast meals instead, or have brunch together on the weekends. Most studies done on the benefits of family meals suggest starting with at least four meals together each week. They all count!

Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)

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