Food has the potential to offer a variety of benefits, including increased energy, decreased risk of disease and illness, better management of chronic disease, improved immune function, and it allows us to be more productive at work and play. Additionally, an often overlooked benefit of food is its potential to bring people together to foster healthy social relationships, in addition to healthy bodies.
We treat eating as mostly an individual choice and a solitary act – but the truth is that most of us operate, and eat, as part of a wider social network. Whether it be immediate or extended family, office coworkers, community groups, or a tight-knit group of friends, how we eat and who we eat with can have a big impact on our health and social relationships.
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The social side of eating
Food is not just for survival. It is a way to express our identity, culture, and emotions. It’s an opportunity to come together with the people we love and share an experience, catch up on each other’s lives, and have a conversation. Humans are the only animals who combine eating with ritual – sitting at a table, surrounding ourselves with other people, using food to celebrate, to grieve, and to comfort. We are also the only animals who cook. The ritual of cooking and eating, and all the social connotations connected with eating, is a major part of what makes us human. Unfortunately, busy schedules and increased reliance on pre-made, fast-food meals is making these rituals – and all the benefits they offer – less common.
Benefits of home cooking
- Cooking at home is more cost-effective (as long as you plan your meals and make use of everything you buy!)
- Reduces your consumption of added sugars, sodium, and
- Makes it easier to accommodate allergies, intolerances, and picky eaters
- Children involved in cooking are more likely to eat their meals and develop healthier eating habits
- Allows for better portion control
- Reduces your carbon footprint
- Recipes passed from generation to generation helps to preserve cultural knowledge
- Brings friends and family together
Looking for healthy recipes? Get our free Medisys recipe booklet created by our team of registered dietitians.
Benefits of cooking and eating together
- Adults who eat together tend to be healthier and happier overall
- Eating home cooked meals together is associated with increased longevity
- Children and teens who eat with their family are more likely to have healthier diets, decreased risk of disordered eating, and perform better in school
- Social connections reinforced over meals can help us cultivate a sense of belonging and even reduce symptoms of depression
- While today’s busy lifestyles may not allow you to eat with others as often as you’d like, make a point to schedule time to meet a friend for supper, time your lunch meal with a coworker, or set a routine of having a family meal at least twice per week.
Other tips to help you make time for cooking and eating together include:
- Keep your kitchen organized and stocked with the basic equipment, utensils, and ingredients that you need – this will help make cooking less stressful.
- Each weekend, make a point to plan your meals for the week ahead and make a shopping list based on that meal plan – this will help you to buy only what you need.
- Consider prepping items in advance or doing some batch cooking so you can cut down on cooking time throughout the busy week.
- Take stock of how much time you spend in front of TV, computer, or smartphone. You might be able to use some of that downtime to devote to planning, preparing, and enjoying meals.
Find ways to enjoy cooking – make it a social affair (either with family, friends, or roommates) whenever possible. If cooking solo, play music or a podcast, or have your favourite TV show on in the background.
Eating together can happen at breakfast, lunch or supper. Choose the meal that gives you the most time to talk and connect. You might not be able to eat together every day, but make a point to schedule in group eating any time you can!
At Medisys, our registered dietitians are here to help you adopt healthy eating habits, adapted to your lifestyle. Click here to learn more about our nutrition services.