Eating together is good for us
Many researchers have studied the influence of shared family meals. There are a number of positive effects such as when families often eat together, it reduces children’s risk of obesity, excessive use of social media, drug abuse, eating disorders, crime, and depression. Shared meals also support language and psychological development. But it is not only the food itself that is important: the family members experience the meal time spent together particularly positively, if they have good and attentive conversations. In families where shared meals are important, positive and structured, there are fewer eating disorders.
If you only sit together in front of the TV, the risk of obesity increases. It also plays a role that people eat “by the way” in front of the TV: those who do not eat consciously often eat too much.
Eating together is not the panacea
So in families that often eat together, researchers observe a number of positive effects. But shared meals don’t necessarily have to be the only reason: correlation is not causality.
American scientists Kelly Musick and Ann Meier have found that a good parent-child relationship, shared family activities, and socioeconomic status – education, occupation, property, and cultural activities – have just as much influence on factors such as obesity, depression, or eating disorders. Researchers therefore now see family meals as a symptom of a generally functioning family life and good living conditions.
Shared meals in a friendly atmosphere can certainly improve the relationships of the family members among themselves. Probably families who eat a lot together have a pretty good relationship anyway and common family rituals and take time for each other.
How to eat together properly
Experts recommend paying attention to a few factors in order to make a common meal a successful one:
- You should allow yourself enough time for the meal and create a positive and pleasant atmosphere at the table.
- Parents should eat healthy food and provide healthy, high-quality food.
- The TV stays out best.
- And the food is prepared together. This joint cooking or preparation helps children to better perceive and appreciate food and the effort of cooking. And it’s amplifying positively – a cooked meal is a task that is accomplished together. It is not for nothing that there is a great demand for cooking schools and cooking classes, whether with the family or with their work colleagues.
Eating with colleagues makes you more social
Even outside of families, eating together can have positive effects. If work colleagues dine together, they behave less dominantly or submissively to each other. They perceive hierarchies less strongly and feel more relaxed and happier after eating breaks together.
However, studies have also shown that cognitive control suffers after a meal together – we are less focused. At the same time, we notice mistakes worse and judge them less harshly. In addition, we notice bad mood in others more quickly.
What is a disadvantage for a task in which one has to work very concentrated and precisely, is advantageous for social situations: the food we spend together makes us more tolerant and empathetic for a while. So it is best not to take an extremely complex look directly after a break together, but rather something in which interaction and empathy are required.