HOW We Eat, Not WHAT We Eat

By Coach Mel

We read, watch, listen to and talk about what we should be eating all the time. In fact, I’ll bet not a day goes by that we don’t see pictures of food and captions of diets telling us what to put in our mouths.  So for this read I will spare you a list of "should's" and "should-nots" and talk about HOW we should eat.

Not new information to you, I’m sure, is that we live in a society that is on the go. Studies show that Americans eat 1 out of 5 meals in the car. American families report eating one meal together less than 5 days a week.  And probably the few people who kept their eyes on the prize while driving bring out their breakfast at work and mindlessly eats it while staring at their computer screen.

We all do these things. We are all short on time and in a hurry and slightly sleep-deprived and so multitasking has become as commonplace as going to the bathroom.

But the issue needs to be addressed: HOW are we eating? What are we also doing and who are we surrounded by?

The family meal. Does this bring back current or childhood memories? When I was a kid dinner was always eaten together as a family. No distractions allowed, no smartphones (they weren’t around but cell phones were), no TV unless it was a brand new (can you imagine?!) episode of Friends and I begged and pleaded. Just food, family, and conversation. The family meal can mean anything. It can be you and a roommate, a partner, a friend or by yourself enjoying some peaceful time before or after your day. But your car’s stick shift or the remote control don’t tend to be as good of listeners.

We could all use time to relax and to breathe. We could all take a break from our phones and computers.

Data collected from ¾ of the world's countries in an analysis from the organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that students who do not have a routine of eating with parents are more likely to act out in school. It was found that those who do not have at least twice weekly dinners with their parents were 40% more likely to be overweight as compared to those who do. In a study conducted at Columbia University by the National Addiction and Substance Abuse Center showed kids who eat dinner 5 or more days a week with family eat healthier, have better academic performance, and show less trouble with drugs and alcohol. These are facts, you guys.

There are a few reasons associated with these negative effects. One simply is that when we go out or our kids go out with their friends, the healthiest choices are not typically made and, if done regularly, these poor food choices have a host of negative effects over time (to be addressed in a different blog). Meals eaten outside of the home are most often less healthy than a homemade meal. Another reason is that eating quickly and alone in our cars, at our desk, etc. can be alienating. The dinner table acts as a place of community. It is a chance to catch up, to share something, to relax.

Elizabeth David, an American culinary guru said “eat simply and eat together.” This is fantastic advice. The average American now spends about the same amount of money on fast food as they do on groceries and then probably consumes said crappy meal before even exiting the parking lot.

Admittedly times are different now. Often, all members of the household are working and there is not a person who stays home and cooks. "We work more. We don’t have time. We are too tired to cook.” EXCUSES. We can make time all day long for meetings and work. Let’s start making more time for our health. So invite a friend over for dinner, pull up your dog’s bed to the table, make a date night out of cooking together. We need to "meal" better. Not just nutritionally but psychologically as well.