By Kylie Stowe
In today’s busy modern society, the importance of sitting down together as a family at meal times and eating together and sharing about your day is a lost tradition for many. It is instead often a time that is busy, chaotic, and full of distractions with parents and children eating dinner at different times.
There has been a plethora of research conducted around the benefits of family meal times, these benefits are said to include reduced rates of obesity, that adults tend to eat more slowly and often consume less food because they are engaged with other family members and discussion. This leads to less fast-paced mindless eating, chewing food adequately, and time for satiety ques to signal you are full more effectively.
Something as simple as slowing down at meal times and chewing food effectively is an incredibly powerful health habit as this allows for the first phase of digestion to happen more efficiently. Cephalic phase digestion, meaning ‘of the head’ occurs at the sight, smell and taste of food and results in the excretion of approximately 20% of the gastric secretions required for digesting foods. Being mindful to slow meal times makes a huge difference in allowing the body adequate time for `these digestive phases to take place, chewing food is an incredibly important part of this process as it not only begins the mechanical breakdown of food but allows foods to be effectively mixed with saliva that is full of enzymes required to break down and digest foods.
As a busy mum of four myself, I admit at times that when dinner rolls around at the end of a long day it feels like a chore, and can feel like a ‘job’ that I just want to be over as fast a possible. I have become aware that when I approach meal times in this way I end up feeling more stressed and don’t take the time to cook meals that are as nutritious as I would like, often resulting in me feeding the kids first which almost always leaves them not eating much of their dinner. My kids also don’t wind down as well when we approach meal times in this way and can easily flow on to a more challenging bedtime.
In contrast, when we cook and eat together as a family, I usually feel less stressed, my children feel a sense of pride in having helped, and because I have put more thought into that meal time its generally a nutritionally superior meal. I almost always find the kids will eat more of their dinner and be far less fussy when meal times are approached in this way. I also notice my children are more relaxed at bedtime when we have had a relaxing family dinner together also.
The research has also indicated that eating together builds stronger family relationships as it allows you all to come together and discuss your day, and feel connected and heard which helps to build a stronger sense of belonging which is thought to build self-esteem. Children learn through an example so role modeling good eating habits and table manners provides a great learning opportunity.
As I always say aim for progress, and not perfection when it comes to health, if family meal times are not something that you currently do often in your house aim to implement a day a week and build on that. Don’t let it be a source of stress or guilt but instead a new fun tradition to start as a family.
In my next blog, we will take a look at fun ways to get kids in the kitchen to teach them the valuable life skill of cooking.
Veggie loaded meatballs with salad and kumara wedges
400 grams of prime minced beef
1 grated carrot
1c of thinly sliced baby spinach
2 cloves of crushed garlic
4 tbsp of grated parmesan
2 tbsp of almond flour
1 tin of Ceres Organics Cherry Tomatoes
Handful of freshly chopped thyme
4 small kumara cut into chunky wedges
Drizzle of olive oil
4 cups of salad greens
1c of halves cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp of toasted pumpkin seeds
4 diced gherkins
½ a diced cucumber
½ a diced capsicum
Drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette
Preheat the oven to 180c fan bake
Combine and mix through all of the ingredients for the meatballs (besides the tinned tomatoes and thyme) shape into golf ball sized meatballs. Mix the tinned tomatoes and herbs then pop in the fridge while you prepare the kumara wedges.
Toss the kumara fries in oil and seasoning. Line a shallow baking dish with baking paper then evenly arrange the kumara wedges and put into the oven.
Remove the meatballs from the fridge, lightly brown in a cast iron pan and top with the tomato and herb mixture. Put into the oven.
Bake both for approximately 20 minutes depending on your oven.
While the kumara and meatballs are baking combine the salad ingredients.
I like to serve mine with a dollop of coconut yogurt. Enjoy!