During the past four weeks, I’ve been to Pennsylvania and Maine, Massachusetts and New York, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. While on the road, I was happy to see lots of family farms, from roof-tops to backyards. It made me smile to pass little produce stands selling sweet corn, watermelon and tomatoes, and the proliferation of restaurants supporting local farms while serving regional fare made mealtime a daily highlight. Clearly, the resurgence of gardening, community-supported agriculture, and hobby farms is inspiring, as America works toward better health, but all of this makes me wonder what’s going on inside the home when it comes to nutrition and healthy eating.
Benefits of Family Meals
A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association examined the impact of parenting styles on family meals and suggested that a structured, family mealtime is associated with increased fruit and vegetable consumption, better psychosocial health and may also protect against obesity.
Computer and TV as Distractions
This all sounds good, but are we making strides to bring back family dinners? I’m not so sure, since statistics show the number of meals families eat together has declined, “grazing” has replaced wholesome meals, and the computer and TV have become distractions in every household. As I drove by one pretty farm house with several plump children sitting on the porch, I wondered if they ate their homegrown dinner watching reality programming or Blockbuster movies.
Make Mealtime What it Used to Be
That said, I think the next step toward better health is not just buying local or going for a brisk walk but making mealtime what it used to be: quality time to appreciate each other and to savor nature’s bounty. A tall order? Absolutely. In today’s day and age, this is a challenge, but one that’s worth taking for the sake of your family unit and your children’s future.