However, all of this sociology is a bit outside of my scope, so instead, I thought I might provide you with some nutrition-based reasons as to why it’s time to bring back the family dinner, in case you’re still not convinced.
Firstly, there is some evidence to suggest that eating alone decreases diet quality, increases your risk of overconsumption and subsequently increases your risk of certain chronic diseases down the track. Basically, if you eat with people, you’re more likely to make better choices with food quality and portions.
This does not mean that if you eat alone you are automatically at risk of these things (that’s not how scientific studies work), but it does mean that it’s probably not a bad idea to try and make sure we’re regularly eating our meals with company.
Eating with others can also improve our digestion. If we’re eating with company, we’re most likely taking breaks in between mouthfuls to talk and interact with those around us. Eating slowly helps make sure we’re chewing our food properly, which means that it’s already better digested before it hits our stomach. Remember, digestion starts in our mouths! Eating too quickly can lead to feelings of bloating, gas or distention. Not fun.
Enjoying our food with good company can reduce our caloric consumption, due to a number of reasons. Firstly, because eating with others slows our eating, we tend to feel fuller after eating less food, because we allow our stomach enough time to send the “I’m full” signal to our brain. This signal can take up to 20 minutes to reach our brain, so if we aren’t careful and are rushing our meals (as we’re more likely to do alone), we can continue to eat long after we’re full, purely because the hormonal signals from our stomach haven’t yet reached our brain.
Secondly, sitting in front of screens, whether the TV, phone or laptop, can distract us from what we’re eating. This means instead of listening to our body and our hunger signals, or being aware of the amounts and portions of the food we’re consuming, we’re being distracted by our favourite Netflix Show. Because we’re not listening closely to this feedback, we can very easily consume far more food than we otherwise would.
The last tip is for those of us with children, particularly young ones who are still discovering food. Taking time out to sit at the table and eat with your children encourages dexterity with cutlery, develops speech and reinforces good eating habits when your child sees what their parents are eating. Pretty powerful stuff!