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One of the cornerstones of American culture has become – for better or for worse – being busy. We work hard, we play hard. We move fast, we talk fast, we eat fast. Sit down meals and family time have become things of the past, novelties that have been obliterated by various commitments of different household members, or at best replaced by shared television watching time. We have sacrificed the rituals of cooking, dining, talking and cleaning together in order to make space in our lives for screens, sports practice or late-night meetings. We choose to eat meals that are quick and convenient to make, or easy to pick up from the friendly fast food joint around the corner. We have made it a habit to eat alone and quickly, sometimes standing, often in front of a computer or TV.
But according to an article published in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, “frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs, with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts, and with better grades in 11 to 18 year olds” (2004). By spending time with people we love, making space in our schedules to truly connect and share information, and focusing our attention on meaningful personal interactions, we inherently promote healthier lifestyles.
Moreover, when we can pay attention to the amount and quality of food we are consuming, we encourage better diet and nutrition. One study conducted by researchers at Harvard found that “families who reported eating together everyday or almost everyday took in more healthy nutrients,” and ate fewer snack foods than families that did not. Simply by taking time to eat together around a table, these families’ risk of obesity and related complications were reduced significantly.
Fine – you are saying – we get it! Regular, healthy, happy, shared meals are important and extremely beneficial. But what can we make that will still be cost-effective and time-appropriate for the demands of my home? And, what can we make that everyone will want to eat?
Don’t worry – I have just the thing.