We’ve all heard that one of the best ways to grow as a family is to eat meals together regularly. In Singapore, we even have an "Eat With Your Family Day" every quarterly in a year to remind employers and families about how important this simple act of bonding can be.
As shared by FFL Council Member Mrs Sher-Li Torrey "Often, people think that family bonding can only take place during special occasions. It is actually possible to spend quality time with your family at home too! For me, meal times are always a great way for my husband and I to have a hearty, 2-way conversations with our children, especially with our “no devices at the dining table” rule. I really enjoy cooking and experimenting with different types of cuisines such as Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and even Mexican or Spanish flavours. Food is a conversation topic that would never go wrong for us. I would even joke with my family that we can travel the world and learn about different cultures from the comfort of our dining table!
At the end of the day, it is really about turning everyday moments into opportunities for family bonding. The topics that are brought up, the way family members interact with each other and the heartfelt communication is what really supports this. Sometimes, it does require some effort to engage everyone, but as long as there is an attempt to do so, it’s a good start.”
Bonding as a family is the most important reason for making an effort to eat a home-cooked meal together, but did you know that there are at least 7 more reasons why you should eat together as a family?
1. Bond with Your Family
This is the reason which most of us think about when we decide to make family meals an important part of our lives. However, it takes more than just gathering the family together for a meal to make it a bonding experience.
Make sure that there are no distractions at the dinner table. Turn off all devices and switch the TV off. As much as possible, get everyone to sit down at the table and eat at the same time. Avoid running a rotating service where different people drop by to eat at different times. The idea is to have a meal together. Meals should be viewed as a team event and not a relay service.
Leave frustrations and arguments out of your dinner conversation. Now is not the time to berate your child for getting bad grades, or to yell at your spouse for not clearing the front yard. Focus instead on thought-provoking topics, discussions about what’s happening in the world today and new things which each of you may have learned over the day. Focus also on empathy when you are together. Ask about each other’s day, listen to how different family members have felt and dealt with their emotions.
2. It’s A Great Way to Reduce Stress
When you have a regular chance to sit down with your family and you know that can share how you felt over the course of the day, you will be able to unwind and relax. The comfort and familiarity of eating meals together is a great way to relieve stress. It is often an important marker which separates “work” time and “home” time.
3. Home Cooked Meals are Healthier
When you prepare dinner yourself, you know exactly what goes into the dishes you make. You can choose fresh vegetables, reduce salt, sugar and oil and avoid processed foods. Being able to make these choices means that the meals you make for your family will be better and healthier.
4. Nurture Positive Eating Habits
As you eat with your children and your family members you encourage them to develop a positive attitude towards food. When meal times are associated with warmth, support and encouragement and when children see you preparing and selecting food which is nutritious and healthy, they too will begin to develop positive attitudes towards food and meal times.
5. It Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
Cooking dinner at home doesn’t have to be a big, complicated affair. Focus on preparing foods which can be put in a slow cooker or baked in the oven. Simple salads can take the place of more complicated vegetable dishes and foods which can be cooked earlier allow you to space out your cooking and prep time over the day instead of trying to do everything at the last minute.
Stretch meals which you cook at home by adding 1 or 2 items you can buy ready-made from the market or the food hall of your nearest supermarket. A roast duck from the market paired with salad, rice and a simple soup can make a satisfying meal too.
With some experience, you will find that preparing dinner at home takes less time and is less stressful than going out for a meal.
6. Teach Your Kids Important Skills
The time you spend together preparing your meals and at the dinner table are great opportunities to teach your children new skills. Dinner conversations help your children to increase their vocabulary and become more proficient at speaking and understanding the languages you speak. If you can, try and spend some time speaking in your family’s second language to sneak in some extra practice at home. If your kids help you with the cooking, then you will also be teaching them how to become more self-sufficient. Being able to make your own meals is a huge step in that direction.
7. Save Money
Cooking at home saves a lot of money. You can feed your entire family very well for the price of just 1 person’s meal at a restaurant. So cook at home and save up for a family holiday or outing instead.
8. Introduce Variety into Your Diet
If you eat out all the time, you’ll start noticing that you always seem to be eating the same meals. Restaurants, food centres and coffee shops tend to stick to a narrow set of foods which are popular and sell well.
Cooking and eating at home allows you to try out new recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques, all of which lead to more interesting meals and a more balanced diet.