Monday, 20 January 2014

How to eat

I know, I know. You don't need any help on this front. Neither did I, at least so I thought. But I've just been researching some stuff for work - "eating together as a family" and the health benefits are shocking!
Basically, if you eat together you will be slim, your children will be slim, and someone else will pay your mortgage. Ok, the bit about the mortgage isn't true, but the rest is. Look at this:
According to Cornell University (I trust them) eating together means:
"Your child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight." They say that some of this research might be based on other data which is hard to exclude, such as families which eat together are more affluent, culturally more stable etc. But even when this is allowed for, they say: "Results show that family dinners 
are linked to lower levels of depressive symptoms. Indeed the authors find that the implications for youth of engaging in family meals are similar to the implications of living in a two- vs. a single-parent family. " Wow.
And...if you want to go on an utterly painless diet, read this:
"Children and adolescents who share family meals 3 or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range and have healthier dietary and eating patterns than those who share fewer than 3 family meals together. In addition, they are less likely to engage in disordered eating." American Academy of Pediatrics.
But perhaps most interestingly families who eat in front of the TV are more likely to be overweight. Being distracted while they eat means they eat more, and by not being able to recall clearly what they ate means they are more likely to eat more at their next meal.
We don't eat in front of the telly, generally, but I find it really hard to eat at the same time as the kids. Work normally gets in the way, but having researched all of this, I'm going to make sure that I eat with them at least three times a week. It's going to be my New Year's Resolution. What about you? Do you eat with your kids? How often? Do you think it's important?

15 comments:

  1. I've just emailed this post to my husband, who immediately replied 'I love it when science backs us up' - that's one happy reader! Up until about 6 months ago, our one year old would have an early tea and we'd cook after she'd gone to bed. We then decided that, no, this wasn't how we'd envisaged family meal times. We now eat all together at 5pm ish (we're lucky that we can all be home at this time I know). I'm sure our 20 month old eats more, and a wider range, because she sees us eating the same thing, and as she isn't the only one eating, there's less focus on her. Probably once a week we eat later than her, but generally we all eat together and think it's very important. It's one of those things we remember from our childhoods - sitting around the table altogether.

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    1. I totally agree. I think there's a strange focus when one person is eating but no-one else is. You are checking to see what they've eaten, how they are eating, rather than tucking in yourself and showing them how it's done! In the research I read it said that something happens at family meal times which was hard to measure, a level of communication which isn't just about talking, I think maybe eating together is a kind of communication.

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  2. We eat together as much as possible too - it's got easier as the kids have got older (now 10 and 7) although harder when the OH is travelling, although I'll usually eat with the kids if he's coming home late. I would say that when we are together we nearly always eat our meals together. It's much easier too - only one meal to cook instead of cooking in shifts - and we always eat at the table too - why wouldn't you? There's hardly anything actually worth watching on TV at that time of night (I mean it - it's all sh*te). True, we spend alot of time saying things like "please close your mouth when you're eating", and negotiating about how much has to be eaten before pudding, but I think it's by far the best way to do it if you can. Sometimes I do give the kids fish fingers and send them to bed, and the Husband and I have something special, but then that makes eating together as a couple more of an occasion - more of a 'date night' - and we make more of an effort too. Probably sounds insufferably smug, but I really think it's important, and as the kids get older evenmore so - to have a routine of spending at least some time together like that.

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    1. I think it's that grown up time, with just me and my husband eating that I would miss most. Although doing it more occasionally does make it more special. And the thought of just cooking once is appealing!

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  3. We used to eat at the table all together, but I have a very small house, and as we eat at 8pm, the news (in France) is also on then. I'm a single parent with two boys, and they nagged and nagged and nagged for us to eat together on the sofa "so we could discuss current affairs" (my eldest knows how to talk to me...).

    I was all for refusing, but then my dearly beloved waded into the discussion (he doesn't live with us, but often comes over for dinner) and he said he'd like to eat on the sofa too. So I bowed to pressure and gave up my quest to be a perfect little family who eats at the table, so now we eat together, but on the sofa.

    It's all very unconventional in our house and the boys love it. Actually, their friends love it when they come over too.

    We aren't fat either. :)

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    1. I think the "eating dinner while watching tv" argument is purely weight orientated (so if you haven't piled on the pounds than you're on to a winner!). But you are still eating together, as a family, at the same time, I think that's the key.

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  4. I don't know why any parent would think it does no harm eating separate to their children. My son is two and has been eating with us since he was one. Except for one night every week when me and my partner have a meal later.
    He helps set the table and knows that mummy daddy and charlie have separate place mates, little things but important in learning. I think it has helped him understand what food is all about. In recent years society has made it okay to treat food as fuel, which of course it is but its also more than that. Its an opportunity to come together and talk about your day. I understand not everyone can sit down as a family as our working lives are so different today. But i would rather have time to eat together than write the essay i need to finish :)

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    1. I think the problem, especially with young children, is that they need to eat early. If you both work the chances are you're not home until 6pm at the earliest, which leaves little time for preparing dinner, bath and bed by 7 (ish). If you work from home, or part time it does make life easier on the eating together front. My husband is rarely home until 6.30/7pm, I'm around the same, and then there's not time to prepare something for everyone and bedtime at 8pm. I think there is a bit of a movement in schools etc to realise that mealtimes is a very important time for emotional development, not just chucking food down your neck!

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  5. We eat together at weekends but it is hard during the week as OH doesn't get back until 7pm which is a bit late for youngest (just 6). To have to do bed and bath after would mean bedtime would be after 8. Eating together every evening is my grand plan in a year or so's time when she can manage a later bedtime. Although I think sometimes we might make an excuse as the reminders to eat nicely and what's for pudding can get a little wearing!

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    1. I agree, it is hard to do for most people. And tbh I rarely feel like eating at 6pm, and am starving by 10pm if I do! However that might just be conditioning!

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  6. When we moved to America my kids were young and we were still feeding them early at 5 and then ourselves at 8 but no one else was doing that. Nobody eats after 6:30 here! I've just discovered your blog and really enjoy it.

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    1. Thank you!
      No-one eats after 6.30pm? Wow, everyone must get home from work much earlier than us. How nice.

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  7. We try and eat as a family as often as possible. It doesn't always work with various other activities going on, but when I know it will work I do seem to make a little extra effort to make the meal special, probably not deliberately but thinking about it i'm sure that's what happens.

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  8. This is an interesting one. I absolutely agree that eating together is important but I currently find it impossible with our 18 month old. He would be starving if he had to wait until my husband gets in from work (rarely before 7.30pm). I also like to eat with my husband in the evening rather than early with my son. We manage breakfast together and lunch at the weekend. I wish it could be more often!

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  9. We eat together when we can, usually at weekends, but otherwise have two sittings due to me other 'alf not getting back before about 7.30pm. I love it when we all eat together, the kids definitely eat more and muck about less. Great post.

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