Sharing a Meal at Home
Remedios Manloloyo (The Freeman) - October 5, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Today’s fast-paced lifestyle apparently threatens the traditional family togetherness at the dining table.  With everybody busy, some families no longer prioritize eating meals together.  And these families are not as solid as families should be.

In 1950, Elizabeth David, published “A Book of Mediterranean Food.” She wrote that great food is simple. She proposed that meals didn’t have to come from fancy or trendy restaurants, and that enjoying basic meals with loved ones makes for the best eating. Her equation for the whole family’s physical and psychological wellbeing was easy: Eat simply and eat together.

Ms. Davis belonged to a different culture; she was American. But her idea of a good meal was exactly the same as what the Filipino meal used to be. No matter how modest and meager the meal, it was best shared by family members together.

Times have changed. Most Filipino families now have both parents working. They no longer enjoy Mother’s home cooking; she probably even no longer knows how to cook. Even if she still does, she just doesn’t have time for it anymore.

Some people say that home cooking is no longer practical.  It takes spending time shopping for ingredients at the supermarket, aside from the cooking itself.  It’s much easier to simply grab a bucket of fast-food.

Besides, there’s less motivation for home cooking now. The busy schedules of both parents and children make it hard for the family to join together for a meal. Everyone eats at everyone’s convenient time.

But regularly eating together at the table has its benefits for family members. Research suggests that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development. Family dinners have also been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders, and better performance at school.

Eating meals together is a good time for family conversation. It allows for healthy communication between parents and children. It is important, however, that there are no distractions during family meals – no smartphones, no television etc.

During mealtime conversation, parents teach the kids how to listen and provide them with a chance to express their own opinions. This allows children to have an active voice within the family. Family meals allow every family member to discuss his or her day and share any exciting news.

Family meals provide a sense of security and togetherness which helps nurture children into healthy, well-rounded adults. These have a positive impact on children's values, motivation, personal identity, and self-esteem. Children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand, acknowledge, and follow the boundaries and expectations set by their parents.

In terms of nutrition, eating together encourages healthy eating habits as parents may set the food to be shared. It provides a model for children to carry with them into adulthood. Studies show family meals increase the intake of fruits and vegetables by children.

It shall be emphasized that eating out together is not the same as sharing a meal at home. At a restaurant there are distractions that dilute the family’s attention on one another; thus, the conversation among family members may not be as meaningful. Also, at fast-food restaurants, for example, the food choices may not be as healthful as home-cooked meals.

The greatest benefit yet the family may get in coming together at meal is the emotional and physical reassurance that they are there for one another.

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