Make Meals Social for Better Health
In a world where we’re constantly on the go (or stuck inside), sitting at the table for a meal with family or friends might feel like a bit of a luxury. From catching up on emails and scrolling Instagram to eating on the run, eating has become one of the most common ways to multitask. But taking a break and eating with others offers many benefits that may play a role in weight management, disease risk, and even mental health. Need more reasons to enjoy a meal — in person or virtual — with others? Here are a few to consider:
- You may live longer. Some of the world’s oldest people live in “Blue Zones,” or the areas in which the most centenarians live. The cultures where Blue Zones exist value social connection and family, and eating meals together is ingrained in their lives. In addition, research has connected social relationships with longevity and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Connecting over a meal is one way to enhance your social connections.
- Power up your productivity. One study showed that workers with the highest rates of social interaction were also the most productive. Skip the desk lunch and enjoy lunch in the café today. Your boss can’t argue against a boost in productivity!
- Reduce mindless eating. Eating while distracted, especially by screens, may interfere with your connection to your hunger/fullness cues and result in less satisfaction with your meal. One study showed that smartphone use while eating led to a 15 percent increase in calorie consumption. Another study suggests that attentive eating may influence food intake. So, put down your phone, and connect with friends IRL (in real life).
- Enhance the lives of your kids. Eating meals as a family has been linked to numerous health benefits for kids and adolescents. This includes improved grades, better nutrition for kids, lower likeliness of a kid becoming a picky eater, and many others. If it’s good for the kids, it must be good for us too!
If you’re in the habit of eating while distracted, start by having two to three meals per week with others. As you begin to reap the benefits, you might find it easier to take a break for a meal more often.