The Benefits and Social Dynamics of Shared Meals

10 Aug

We cooked, we ate, we communed … and we improved our health.

For as long as people have been alive, they have been eating together.  Initially, living – and therefore eating – in groups was a matter of safety in numbers.  In more modern times, eating with others has become a means of celebrating and marking events, as well as enjoying the company of others.  Recently, however, the pace of life has quickened so much that people hardly have time to eat, let alone enjoy a meal with others.  Food is seen merely as an energy source to keep plodding through the day.  I’m here to tell you that we all need to slow down, at least enough to take back the communal meal from the demands of our high paced and stressful days.

For several years, there has been much discussion about the advantages of Mediterranean diets: the French Paradox, the seemingly contradictory Italian diet of pasta, cheese and wine.  While there are many nutritive qualities in these diets, there is another factor often overlooked.  Among these romantic peoples, one of their greatest contributions to the world of eating is that they dine together.  That’s right, they take the time to sit down at the table with others.  Studies have linked friendships and a sense of community/belonging to greater overall health and well-being.  Just merely belonging to something gives people a sense of purpose, and purpose is critical to psychological wellness.  Eating together has other favorable qualities.  When eating together, conversation will inevitably take over the table – the beautiful Bay Area weather, what exciting events have transpired over the recent weeks.  This gives each person time to chew, savor, and taste the food.  Imagine slowing down to enjoy every savory and salty ingredient in that grilled meat. What if each burst of fresh berries in a cobbler could be differentiated from the next? You would definitely need less food to be satisfied, wouldn’t you?  Also, nobody likes to watch someone talk with a mouthful of food.  That great conversation you’re having is slowing down how much and how fast you eat, meaning you’ll feel full sooner.

FIT Family Dinner accomplished all of this and much more by bringing us all around a table together to learn about and enjoy fresh, locally grown food.  For your health and well-being, take time out of your busy week to share the pleasures of a summer meal with family and friends.

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