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Eating and Socialising: Why Food is so Important in our Social Landscape

With the festive season sneaking up on us, we begin to prepare ourselves for what seems like endless celebrations. No matter what type of celebration or who we are celebrating with, there is always a common theme: food is the main attraction! In fact, the focus society currently places on food has caused us to associate certain foods with holidays, past events and special times. When we sink our teeth into such foods, it can bring back memories we hold close and take us back to a time we enjoyed. Food is much more powerful than we think!

From catching up for coffee, relaxing over brunch, indulging in a long lunch or bonding at a BBQ, it’s hard to imagine getting together without the company of food. Food is something we all have in common, we all must eat, most of us find food pleasurable and trying new foods or cafes is a new experience we can share with others. From an emotional health perspective, socialising over food may have some of the following benefits:

  • Prevents eating on the go in a stressed state which improves digestion
  • Assists with mindful eating which has proven benefits for both our mental and physical health
  • Instils a sense of relaxation within and feelings of content
  • Helps us become open to new experiences and eat outside of our comfort zone
  • Helps children learn the importance of taking time to enjoy food
  • Allows us to bond with others over a pleasurable event
  • Helps us feel as though we belong due to our common interest in food with others
  • Takes our mind off what we did before sitting down to eat and what we need to do after, encourages us to be present in the moment
  • Gives us something to look forward to
  • Helps provide a certain element of structure to our day and routine

Improved emotional health is not the only benefit of socialising over food; the benefits to our physical health have been widely studied. A recent paper has shown adolescents who eat at least one meal weekly with an adult member of their family have less obesity, lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Accordingly, the greatest benefit was shown in adolescents who ate dinner with family six or seven times weekly. Whilst meal content was not analysed it was agreed a supportive environment can provide encouragement and contribute to stress reduction, which assists in reduced cardiovascular disease.

The improvements in physical health from socialising around food cannot be underestimated. Cultures who base their dining around bonding with family and close community through shared leisurely meals have been studied for longevity and reduced incidence of chronic disease. Eating in this fashion on a regular basis with the mindset of food being there to be enjoyed and shared, is a way to promote greater physical wellbeing and acts to serve our emotional wellbeing.

Some ideas to create a healthy experience from socialising:

  • Host a healthy dinner party; encourage each guest to bring a healthy dish
  • Grab a friend and go for a long walk before landing at a healthy café for a nourishing breakfast
  • Take the family on a picnic and pack a basket full of healthy delights
  • When dining out share a few dishes around the table, this helps keep portions in check, ensures diversity and is much more fun!
  • Go to a healthy cooking class and learn to cook some dishes you haven’t tried before
  • Go to the farmers’ markets with family or friends and sample fresh produce
  • Schedule in a weekly dinner or lunch for the whole family to attend
  • At an office morning tea bring a healthy fruit platter or make some raw bliss balls

To put into practice the benefits of healthy socialising, next time you’re asked to bring a dish, try my Whole Food Trifle, perfect for all sorts of festivities:

http://www.goodchefbadchef.com.au/recipe/whole-food-trifle/

GCBC7_Ep47_Whole-Food-Trifle

If you feel further guidance and support around eating for health is needed, my Falling In Love With Food program provides a weekly plan, recipes, shopping lists and food diary which provides the resources needed and teaches the foundations of how to create a healthy routine. To find out more, head over to: http://www.zoebingleypullin.com/nutritionist-services/on-line-program-8/

References

Khoury M, Manihiot C, Gibson D, et al. Evaluating the associations between buying lunch at school, eating at restaurants, and eating together as a family and cardiometabolic risk in adolescents. Canadian Cardiovascular Congress; October 24, 2015–October 27, 2015; Toronto, ON.

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