As I reported in my book, The Shared-Meal Revolution, studies have shown that a routine shared-meal practice (five or more meals in a week) has a positive impact on children’s eating patterns and diet quality (citing improvements like more fruit and vegetables and fewer soft drinks). Even better, if you promote healthier eating in your kids when they’re young, these benefits tend to continue into adulthood.
Do you gain those benefits by simply eating inside your home? Well, no, as common sense shows us that to eat nutritiously, we’ll need to choose whole food, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and avoid highly refined, processed, and sugar-laden foods. Overall, Americans have chronically unhealthy eating habits. We often focus on what is easily accessible versus what can bring our bodies long-term health.
The food industry naturally plays a big role in supporting these unhealthy eating habits. There are GMOs and processed food in abundance. As this video I found from Nutritionfacts.org aptly states, “The food industry is a business, not a parent; it doesn’t care what we eat as long as we are willing to pay for it.”
Eating at home is no longer something your mother or grandmother does for you while she shoos you out of the kitchen. For people of all ages, it’s a skill that takes a little bit of time to acquire (I’m still at a beginner level, but I’m learning every day), but it is also a lot of fun, it stimulates creativity, and you gain better control of healthy eating. Cooking classes should be a required course in every school around the country as it’s a basic life skill (as stated in this video, “Home cooking these days has far more than sentimental value; it’s a survival skill.”)
As this video also points out, cooking our own food (when choosing quality ingredients) can help us live healthier and longer. We need to pay attention to the ingredients we’re using to get the healthy benefits, and we need to find ways to make healthier eating taste better too, to keep everyone in your shared-meal plan craving more. Sugar, fat, and salt are common ways the food industry makes our food appealing, but there are better ways.
Here are a few ways you can create healthier eating habits inside your home:
- Develop a 1x a day shared-meal plan (or at least 5 meals a week—breakfast, lunch or dinner — whatever meal works best for you). Focus on a committed, collaborative plan from planning to shopping to cooking, and of course enjoying meals together. Click here.
- Show leadership with the food choices you make; select foods you know are higher in nutritional value (such as berries and sweet potatoes) and taste good too. Aim for lots of color on your plate.
- Research what’s in your food with sites such as Food Babe; become educated so you can “vote” for healthier food each time you make a food purchase
- Get appealing recipes that focus on adding natural flavor from healthier eating websites such as the Food Network’s Healthy Eats
- Give your kids a head start on cooking skills by inviting them into the kitchen to help you (kids of all ages can help with age appropriate tasks)
- Take a cooking class with people in your shared-meal circle; this kind of adventure can motivate you to find new delicious recipes using healthier ingredients
Remember, it is unrealistic (and boring, and emotionally unhealthy too) to try to achieve perfection when creating healthier eating habits. I’m certainly not perfect when it comes to my food choices, but I have a mindfulness and that helps me to make healthy decisions most of the time.
Try to focus on one simple improvement, such as using whole grain bread or pasta instead of white/processed, and when you’re ready, move on to the next improvement you’d like to make.
Explore different foods together, such as finding a new recipe using jicama; doing this exploration with those in your shared-meal circle will help inspire you all collectively to make better choices.