How often have you felt that the tradition of having regular family meals was getting obsolete with the changing times? I feel that our busy individual lifestyles have made eating together a challenge, but the nutritional, diet, social, health and mental benefits make it all worth the extra effort.
I grew up in a joint family where shared meal times were a regular ritual to bond and reconnect with each other at the end of an exhausting day. The dining table in my house made my siblings learn more about food, nutrition, society and culture. Good manners were inculcated and we served various kinds of multigrain while listening to each other. Conversations were regularly conducted, conflicts were resolved and we all learnt to adjust to each other.
In comparison, I realized that my kids were starting to shirk family meals. They were so burdened with school, homework and endless extracurricular activities that they could not get time for a gathering at the dining table. My son started taking his food to his room as he enjoyed eating in solitude, while my daughter continued being picky. My husband ate on the go. We all became erratic eaters.
I was troubled with this overall decline in the intake of good multigrain and felt it was robbing my family of a valuable and healthy lifestyle. So, how to effectively transform all family meals from a rare occurrence into a more nourishing daily affair?
1) Becoming a role model for food
Chalking out some concrete steps, I tried getting the fun, food and conversation back to my dining room table! The normal Atta got replaced with Aashirvaad Atta with multigrains which was a healthier combination of up to 6 grains (including wheat, oats, maize, channa and psyllium husk). Rotis got softer and tastier now, digestion felt well and immunity was raised.
Additionally, the strength, fitness and energy levels of my family members got a boost and so did the cognitive abilities of my kids. This improved multigrain diet and extra nutrition contributed most towards a healthy and happier lifestyle.
2) Scheduling times to have meals together
I rotated menus and scheduled early weekday dinners since this allowed the maximum time to talk and connect. Looking up various recipes online made me dish out interesting multigrain Atta rolls, tacos and stuffed parathas which were thoroughly enjoyed by everyone around me. I even experimented with a Tarla Dalal Bread recipe that I made with Aashirvaad Atta with multigrains. It turned out very easy to prepare and was finished in a jiffy. My kids saw the adults appreciate the cooking and copied what they saw. They learnt better table manners, tried more new foods and looked forward to these mealtimes.
3) Getting an overall brain boost
My son’s school teacher had once commented that kids expand their vocabulary more during shared family meals. They end up more motivated and confident with better values and school engagement. Apart from food giving an energy boost, the sense of security and feeling of belonging is also raised. Now I knew that the multigrain Atta meals I was feeding my kids gave them the extra protein, vitamins and minerals.
But the better grades, healthier eating habits and a stronger parent/child relationship was the icing on the cake!
4) Cutting down on elevated risk health
Children who eat alone or away from home turn faster towards alcohol, smoking or other substance dependencies. They get more vulnerable and are prone to peer pressure which might expose them to negative habits at school. So, it is important to have a positive adult role model and encouraging family support. Apart from making the home environment warm and engaging, I also gave proper emphasis on ample nourishment. Fizzy sodas and fried junk foods got replaced with multigrain Atta dishes. This curbed any further risk of disordered eating in my house.
5) Tapping Social and Health benefits
Our constant distraction with work, mobile phones and take away meals is detrimental to our own mental and physical health. So, I have made it mandatory to switch off all devices and television during mealtimes. I also follow the 3-step routine of Planning, Preparing and Enjoying all food and make sure my family follows me. Focus is then on nourishment to inculcate lifelong healthy eating habits.
Research has also shown that nutritious home cooked multigrain meals help battle obesity in growing kids. There is less eating disorder, better resilience to daily situations, higher self-esteem and less depression. We then bond more with our children and learn to develop deeper conversational skills.
So, because of these steps, the art of family conversation around a nourishing dining table has again been revived. Meal times are not on my endangered list anymore and poor and unhealthy eating habits have been effectively curbed.
Do you have any interesting stories or tips to relax, recharge or bond better as a family? Please do share them below.