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We all know the nutritional and health benefits of REAL food, but what if the benefits are much bigger than that? Perhaps there are also significant social and family benefits associated with a lifestyle based on REAL food...
We have all heard the statistics and read the studies that show children who have regular meals with their families get better grades, have better eating habits, are less likely to smoke and drink alcohol, and have better emotional and social well-being. That’s quite a list!
This sounds simple enough, but it's not easy!
Many years ago, dinner was focused around the TV...remember TV dinners and TV trays?! Now, we have advanced from TV dinners to a broad universe of “convenience foods,” making it easy for everyone to grab something different, eating as quickly as possible before moving on to the next important activity – all while watching TV, texting or distracted with some other electronic device.
Enjoying meals together is simply a great way to stay connected. And, meals prepared using REAL food may increase the likelihood of these interactions. In our family, some of our best conversations seem to take place while preparing and eating meals. This is when we hear great stories and more details about their day and what they are excited or anxious about.
We have to be realistic…our kids are at the age where weeknights are crazy busy, so we try for at least 3-4 times per week we can all sit down together for dinner. This is where the slow cooker and quick and easy meals come in handy! We try to remember we are the role models and life goes by way too fast, so we try to value our “parent” time with them while we can!
What a great opportunity to teach our children about REAL food! Teaching kids about food and nutrition really is a life skill, just like learning to ride a bike! Showing our kids the importance of being thoughtful about what we eat can make a huge impact in their lives.
Imagine the difference of preparing a simple meal using fresh green beans instead of simply heating up a can of green beans. It doesn’t have to be a complicated or time-consuming recipe, and it's a great way to teach kids how to use fresh ingredients and how much better they taste.
Try this...the next time you are at the store, ask your kids (or your spouse) to go get some green beans (or another type of produce). Will they head to the produce section for fresh green beans or will they head straight to the canned green bean section?! We know we’re really on the right track if they say “don’t you get those at the farmer’s market?!"
Relationships and memories!
We all know good food brings people together. Good food can also contribute to great memories! Think about Thanksgiving. For many, it's their favorite holiday.
First, there is thought and care put into the meal (even if it isn’t always the healthiest food). Plus, we get to enjoy it with close family and friends. This contributes to great memories around the Thanksgiving table! What if we could recreate this feeling every day? Of course, none of us has time to cook an elaborate meal every day; however, elaborate meals aren’t needed. Simple, quick and easy meals are just fine. The key is putting a little effort into preparing meals using REAL ingredients and using it as an opportunity to bond with family and friends…vs. everyone doing their own thing.
Have you ever wondered why meals at some restaurants are more memorable than others?
Most likely, the ones that stay with you are the ones where the food is amazing because there has been more thought and care put into the ingredients and preparation. Our memories of meals at the ordinary chain restaurants are probably not as vivid as our meals where the ingredients are fresh and interesting. Is this why we "splurge" on certain restaurants for special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries?
Whether it is a great meal made at home or at our favorite special restaurant, if we stop and think about our favorite meals, they probably include a combination of people we care about and really good food…probably REAL food!
Is there a guarantee that if we focus more on REAL food, we will realize these family and social benefits (in addition to the nutrition and health benefits)? Of course, there there is no guarantee...but it certainly can’t hurt!
What social and family benefits have you seen from a lifestyle based on REAL food?
What tips do you have for using meals to build strong interactions and memories?
Great food for thought. I am probably not the best person to reply, as I don’t have kids to sit around the table with nor do I work a schedule that allows us to sit around a table period. But, as Krista states those are some of my fondest memories growing up. I never consumed a canned or frozen veg my whole life growing up. I can attribute my upbringing to my profession. Food is meant to cooked and eaten in it’s natural environment, not processed a some plant. I am what you may call a food snob. I don’t eat at chain restaurants or at restaurants but maybe 5 times a year. I truly enjoy cooking and strive to teach others to do the same w/ local and fresh ingredients year round. If I had a job that allowed me the time to fix and sit down w/ my wife every night at a table I would. Unfortunately, being a chef I have to feed others at the peak meal times and don’t get to enjoy that experience but I do cherish it when I can. I love, love, love my mom’s Thanksgiving meals, but haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy it for the last 28yrs. I am shocked each year by how many families go out for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Not that I’m complaining, I chose my profession and love what I do for a living. If you are in the market for an unbelievable Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, we have a table open for you, all made from scratch just like mom does. Come and celebrate w/ us at the Hyatt. Either way take a moment and cherish your time around the table together!!
Hey there Chef Paul, I’ve ordered room service off your menu, some sort of quinoa vegetable hash, that was truly amazing. I took a photo of it, and put it into my presentation the next day, it was THAT GOOD. Anybody that lives in Wichita, get yourself to Harvest Kitchen at the Hyatt asap!
My 14 year old son now works along side me as I prepare dinner. It’s become our after work “thing” – we split an ERA recipe in two and we chat as we work. He has become a master onion chopper – much better than I am at that task! What used to be a chore to me is now a source of enjoyment 🙂