Routt County CSU Extension: Food is best when it's shared

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For me, the best conversations happen during mealtime. That’s when my family relaxes and settles in to share a meal and catch up with one another. Throughout the years, the nature of that shared time has swung from chaotic to cerebral, and while it often includes our immediate family, it easily can morph into a large gaggle of friends. Yes, mealtime provides an opportunity to talk, listen and build relationships, but it’s also when the healthiest foods are consumed. Research shows that shared meals promote eating more vegetables, fruits and fiber, as well as fewer fried foods. For roommates and friends, a home-cooked meal together can provide a fun way to have a healthy meal and save money. For families, mealtime provides an opportunity for parents to be good role models for healthy eating.

Routt County CSU Extension

This monthly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

I understand that your life is hectic. I know that most people in our community have several jobs, participate in sports and have school and community commitments. Where will you find the time to add one more thing? Consider the fact that you, your friends and your family all will benefit when you are eating delicious, nutritious meals together.

So in celebration of March, which is National Nutrition Month, I want to challenge you to share more of your meals with friends and family. I’m not talking about drive-thru cuisine; I’m talking about actually sitting down and enjoying good food and conversation. After all, the root of the word “companion” means to share bread.

Here are some ideas to adding more shared meals to your life.

■ Start slowly: However many meals you eat with family and friends now, add one more to your schedule. If weeknights are too hectic for a family meal, make a special weekend breakfast or Sunday supper. If you tend to eat most of your food standing in front of the refrigerator, make a new recipe and invite someone over to eat it with you.

■ Plan and cook together: Putting together a shared meal doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming if you share the work. Let every member of the family choose a favorite food and build a delicious, simple meal around it. Challenge your roommates to each prepare a new recipe, and then send everyone home with delicious leftovers.

■ Make it fun: Every once in a while, add some excitement and get out placemats or a table cloth. Kids and adults will enjoy the atmosphere of a lighted candle on the table. Select a recipe from your favorite cooking show or magazine and let everyone help with the preparations.

■ Talk: Turn off the TV and your phone and enjoy a good conversation with one another. Families that talk regularly during meals have a huge impact on their children by sharing experiences, ideas and passing along family values.

Add some balance to your life by planning more shared meals with your friends and family. It all starts with a little planning and mealtime organization. Then get everyone involved in preparing and serving the meal. When everybody pitches in, no one feels overwhelmed and everyone benefits.

Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science Extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 or email karen.massey@colostate.edu with questions.

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