Sitting down around the dinner table is the single most important parenting act in my day. It’s not because of what we eat. It’s about the togetherness, facing each other, listening to each other, being still for a time together. Breaking bread together, as the saying goes, that is so very bonding.
So often our thoughts about having a healthy relationship with food focuses on food choice. In this presentation I gave to a group of moms, I explored the idea that ultimately, what we choose to eat is actually a symptom that comes out of the larger food culture we set up in our lives. We need to examine the food culture that exists in our daily lives if we want to change food choice.
Part of the difficulty in our modern American culture is that there is not a whole lot of cultural mandate for the when, where, how, and even why we eat. It is routine, even expected, to eat in cars, at desks, standing in lines, watching TV. There’s no wrong time to eat – breakfast is served all day, drive-thrus stay open all night. We eat out of boredom, indecision, mindlessness, habit. In light of all this, what we eat is often inevitably unhealthy. To fit this anytime/anywhere routine, food must be portable, shelf-stable, no-prep finger food. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for good nutrition.
Moreover, if we’re only thinking about what we eat, we’re missing so many other great benefits of eating time.
However, instead of looking at that final choice of what we eat, let’s back up to the beginning. Let’s decide when we’re going to eat (and when we are not), where are locations we will eat (and where are places we won’t), how we are going to eat (and how we are not), and even why we are going to eat (why we are not). After all this, that very final question of what we eat more easily falls into a healthy place on its own.
When you have decided that food must be eaten sitting down, at a table that’s not your desk or coffee table, at certain times, with certain utensils, possibly with certain people, it becomes a lot easier to get healthful foods to your plate. And it becomes much more fun occasionally to break these decisions. After all, everything in moderation, even moderation. When it’s only a “sometimes” event, eating in front of the TV (Olympics?) or with fingers (why not?) or in the car (road trip?) becomes special, memorable, and fun.
I hope this gets your thoughts flowing. If you’ve been beating your head against a wall about food choice, perhaps looking at a different aspect of food culture will help you to circumvent that question entirely. This bigger picture thinking not only can help ultimately to straighten out our personal food choices, but can also help with family eating habits and even family dynamics as a whole.
This video is a good bit longer than my norm, and even still, I think there’s more to the conversation. I don’t focus on food matters much in my writing, but it will likely come as no surprise to hear that I eat. I also feed others regularly. Developing a healthy food culture in my home not only makes the daily decisions much easier, but also contributes to a green and abundant life.