Re-published from Switch Off And Talk

While most of us understand that it is important to share meals with others in theory, studies reveal that most of us eat one or more meals alone everyday which is harming both our mental health and the health of our planet.

What Happens When We Eat Together?

We are more likely to eat at a regular meal time while sitting upright when we share a meal with other people. This is good for our digestion and also helps us maintain a healthy weight. We learn social skills, exchange information and ideas and develop a sense of belonging. It helps us feel connected, a key factor in maintaining our mental health too.

What Happens When We Eat Alone?

Eating alone is common now but for most of human history food sharing was a central part of daily life.  Without it, our lives lose the structure shared meals provide and we find ourselves eating faster and more even though what we’re eating is likely to be less nutritious. We also miss out on social interaction when we eat alone and children lose opportunities to learn social skills like manners and compassion. Single serve meals also mean more packaging waste sent to the landfill.

What Happens When We Eat In Front of a Screen?

Eating alone also means we are likely eating in front of a TV, phone, tablet or laptop screen. Even when we eat together, our screens might be there with us as we look things up or watch a program while eating. Our bodies digest less when our minds are distracted even though we eat more but feel less satisfied. Kids who grow used to screens during mealtimes will find it hard to break that pattern in later life, leading to an increased chance of obesity and unhappiness.

What Can We Do?

  • Turn off the screens. Whether eating alone or with others, this one simple (but not necessarily easy) act can go a long way in improving our overall health and well being. If it seems too daunting to make all meals screen free, start with a smaller goal that feels do-able like one screen free meal a day.
  • Make it a goal to share a screen free meal with others at least once a week. Many of us remember the Sunday dinners from our childhoods fondly. Create your own version of Sunday dinner on whatever day of the week allows you a little extra time in the kitchen. 
  • Revive the art of conversation. Use shared mealtimes as opportunities to learn about each other and discuss ideas and events. We eat less when we are talking and mealtime conversation helps us form bonds. 
  • Join a challenge. Looking for outside motivation and support? Sign your family, friends, office, or social group up for a screen free shared mealtime challenge, like one of the following: