Nutrition Month: The importance of breaking bread (or matzo) together

At this time of year, many are preparing for their holiday tables, be it Passover or Easter. It’s a time for families to gather and to break bread together-or matzo – depending on which holiday you are celebrating. But the key point here is that families and friends are sitting together and enjoying traditions, food and camaraderie.

But unfortunately, at other times of the year when daily life takes over, people are often too busy with hectic schedules to sit and enjoy meals together. As it is Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month, and a great time to reflect on being an enlightened eater, it’s also an opportune one to make changes.

One element of this year‘s theme, Unlock The Potential Of Food, includes The Potential To Bring Us Together– enjoy the benefits of bringing family and friends together with food. And those benefits, according to research, are significant.

But in a recent Ipsos poll, 30 per cent of Canadians said it’s challenging to find time to eat meals with friends and family. Roughly one-quarter to one-third of families never or seldom eat together as a family. Sharing meals, though, right through the life cycle from childhood until through to the elder years, plays a key role in good health.

For families, hectic schedules, balancing work, after-school activities and the like can get in the way of eating together. Canadians, though, say mealtime is the favourite time of day for family members to interact and talk about their day.

Here are just a few of the perks of sharing meals (without a smart phone and social media or texting as 12 per cent of Canadians say they look at texts or emails during meals):

• Children who eat with their family have more nutritious diets, better academic performance, a lower risk for being overweight and developing an eating disorder. Plus, kids are more likely to consume more vegetables and fruit, and fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.

• Teens who share family meals get better grades, and are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol, or to participate in serious fights. As well, students do better in school when they eat with their families. In a survey of high school seniors, students who regularly ate dinner with their families at least four times a week scored better than those who did not.

• Adults who eat with friends and family also tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, drink fewer carbonated beverages.

• Eating as part of a group leads to improved quality and quantity of food older adults eat, improved nutrient intake and lower rates of malnutrition.

• In the residential care setting, it has been shown that family style meals for older adults are associated with improvements in sensory, physical, and psychosocial functioning, as well as improvements in perceived autonomy
and perceived safety.

• Community kitchens are also a great way to share meals as they offer a space for people to learn to cook, share meals, try new foods, have fun and learn about nutrition.

For those celebrating the holidays, have a Happy Passover and Easter and enjoy the festivities. And while you’re at it, look around and gather up some ideas on how to make sharing meals more than something that happens just on festive occasions.

Tags: ,

Categories: Nutrition Month

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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