When it comes to food quality really does count. Diets high in processed foods are often linked to chronic diseases, while low processed, as close to the form Mother Earth gave them, foods tend to be linked to healthier outcomes.
But when it comes to food it is easy to think what we eat is the only quality thing that counts, but there are other parts of our meal that count too.
Quality counts in how you eat
I know it might sound weird, but the relationship you have to food – when, why and how you eat, can have huge affects on your health. Today I want to focus on the quality that matters for how you eat your meals.
Take for instance the family meal; something many struggle to have in this day and age of busy on-the-go lives. But the number of health benefits that exist when a family takes the time to sit down and eat together are numerable. Family meals promote healthy relationships for adults and children; not just with other human beings, but also with food. This is one of the beautiful things about food; it is a place where we can connect.
The same goes for those of us who are family or child free. Eating with friends has many health benefits, as food is the perfect medium for socializing – and even us introverts experience health benefits from time with friends. Even when eating alone it is important to respect the time around food; mindful and intuitive eating both show that preparing a meal you will enjoy, creating a space that is inviting, and sitting down to mindfully enjoy that meal without distraction (no TV, no computer, no phone!) improves health outcomes. Not only that but you will be more satisfied; think about how quickly you mindlessly eat your dinner but still feel hungry after eating in front of the television. Or go through an entire bag of chips without feeling the fullness factor.
Do you feel the pressure?
It is hard to think about adding one more thing to our already full plates, or about cutting out something to fit in daily family meals. Culturally in North America there is great pride in being busy, in doing all the extra-curricular activities, and it can be hard to say no (particularly if they are things your kids love). Not only that but there is already a lot of pressure on parents to do a “perfect” job raising their kids, and having perfect family meals can be just one more place we shame and blame parents.
So in the name of trying to decrease the pressure, or spark some creativity around the how of your eating here are some ways you can incorporate this idea into your life.
For the Family Meal:
– The family meal does not have to be dinner. It can be lunch, it can be breakfast. Whatever meal you can find that allows you to sit down all together and eat is the meal that works.
– It doesn’t have to be every day. Despite our perfectionist beliefs, something is always better than nothing. Many of us might be weighed down with work, school and commitments on weekdays, but if there is one meal, one day a week when everyone can get together that still gives you benefits. A nice Sunday brunch or dinner? Awesome if that’s what you can do, that’s what you can do.
– Get everyone involved; have family members switch off who plans and cooks the meal. Get your kids involved in choosing the meal, helping get groceries and cooking. Everyone benefits from having basic cooking skills and the younger you begin to develop them, the better they will be.
For those of us who are single:
– It can be so hard to motivate yourself to cook a healthy meal for just you. Fortunately lots of easy meals are totally healthy; pasta with a meat or vegetarian sauce, salad and some protein such as chicken, tofu or beans, tuna melts, grilled cheese and soup…. good healthy food doesn’t have to be fancy. Speaking from personal experience; when I finally stepped off the dieting wagon I decided giving myself interesting and new meals was important for my self care. I chose a new recipe every few weeks to try, because I love to cook I knew this would be good for me. I also don’t mind having three or four meals a week that are “left overs”. This won’t work for everyone, you have to figure out what you like doing around food (throwing everything in the crock pot, maybe just eat fun and healthy sandwiches or wraps? Whatever floats your boat) to best have meals that are healthy and satisfying.
– If you really can’t imagine going to all that work just for yourself invite friends over (since eating out gets $$$ and isn’t always health friendly), or even organize a community kitchen style get together where you cook as a group and have meals for everyone to take home with them.
– Try to eat less in front of the TV and more in silence. Even try setting the table for yourself (yes it totally makes the meal feel special). Do I do these things all the time? No, but when I do it feels amazing.
So as week 2 of Nutrition Month rolls over, remember quality counts around food in many different ways. You can change what you eat, how and why you eat depending on your goals and circumstances, so go a head try to change up the how and see how it helps you.