We all know the pleasure that can be found in spending time with friends or family over coffee or tea or a meal. It’s an aid to conversation and can provide a focal point to bring people together.
But, aside from the social benefits, it can also be good for your health. Cultures that put an emphasis on communal dining have demonstrated increased longevity and lower instances of heart disease and high cholesterol. Even casual dining can reduce stress levels, promote emotional wellbeing, and provide an incentive not to rush through meals and thus avoid the digestive issues it can bring.
It’s not a new idea—the Early Church saw meeting together for food and fellowship as a key part of building community and it was an important factor in creating a sense of belonging in an often hostile environment. And any successful sporting club will tell you that what happens on the field can only do so much to help a club thrive—true club spirit is built at Saturday night BBQs or over after-training pizza.
Financial circumstances may limit our opportunities for social dining—a coffee here, a meal there, can soon add up—and overeating brings its own health issues. But it is possible to enjoy the benefits of breaking bread together in both an affordable and healthy way.
Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
• Instead of going out somewhere, meet in someone’s home. You can ask each guest to bring along a tasty dish, and encourage everyone to bring something healthy.
• Make exercise part of the routine. For example, make a cafe stop the reward at end of a longish walk with a friend. Not only is it good for you, it gives you more time to chat.
• When dining out, share a few dishes around the table, not only cutting cost but reducing portion size and perhaps leading you to try something new.
• Schedule in a weekly dinner or lunch for as many of the family as possible to attend. Be protective of the time and don’t let it to be the first thing that goes when things get busy.
• For things like an office morning tea bring a healthy fruit platter or another healthy snack.
• Next time you are having a BBQ invite the neighbours you don’t really know to come over. It’s a good way to get together with the people you normally just nod at over the fence.