I am not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line, people stopped sitting down at the table for dinner. DOTS ( dinner over the sink) became a thing. Is it the need to eat fast? Is it driven by loneliness? Is it to avoid having to wash a tablecloth? Remember tablecloths!?
I cooked meals for my family of five two to three a day for more than twenty years, so appreciate the appeal of a quick meal: less work, less mess, more time for everything else! Since our last kid left home, I find the intermittent and deliciously liberating moment when dinner finds me at the kitchen sink, yogurt in hand, relishing the fact that the only dish left to wash is a licked-clean spoon.
(Watch a skit from Portlandia on an entire restaurant devoted to DOTS!)
As a licensed naturopathic doctor, I know that what we eat is central to our overall health and a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats leads to best outcomes, I also talk to my patients about the importance of taking time to eat. Creating a calm atmosphere to eat in and how eating around a table with others has its own health benefits.
Research shows how structured family mealtimes lead to less fussiness and food pickiness in little ones. There is an overarching connection between family meal times and general childhood health. In young adults there is a positive correlation between sitting with others for meals and choosing healthier foods.
The positive role of a family sharing meals together has been confirmed to help people in a myriad of ways including: “….enhanced vocabulary, academic success, healthy food selections, demonstration of positive values, and avoidance of high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, premature sexual activity, depression/suicide, violence, school problems, binge eating/purging, and excessive weight loss.”
So, this new year, maybe it’s time for a little less DOTS, fewer times of sinking your teeth into a burrito in your car, or grabbing that bar for lunch at your desk. Think about the positive health impact that sitting down with others to share a meal plays in your overall health and wellness. Pick up the phone and ask a friend to join you for dinner or plan a few meals for the week that you can share with someone whose company you enjoy.