As a nation, we’re falling out of love with our dining tables. From working late to ‘TV dinners’ to desk lunches and even eating in bed, we’ve somehow managed to drift away from what was once considered an integral part of family life. But where are we eating instead, and why? And what’s the impact of this on both our physical and mental health? To find out, we surveyed 2000 people from across the UK and enlisted the help of experts to dig deep and uncover where we’re going wrong. Read on to find out just why it’s so important that we reclaim the dining table – and fast!
Distanced from our dining tables
From our survey it’s obvious that there’s a fair few of us who are failing to eat at the dining table. And our psychology, nutrition, and family-therapy experts tell us that there are lots of downsides to this – from poor digestion to increased feelings of anxiety and sadness, to overeating in general.
The eating places that are stealing the show
Despite the risks of indigestion, overeating, and indulging in junk food, it seems most of us just can’t resist the allure of the ‘TV dinner’. A lot of us are also avid restaurant goers, and even more are guilty of eating at our desks or workplace more than our own dining table.
A tale of contradictions
Although a lot of us are eating regularly elsewhere, our survey suggests we actually enjoy eating at the dining table – and even see it as an integral part of family life. We also tend to associate it with some really positive stuff, like healthy, home-cooked food.
Good for the body and mind
All in all, it’s clear that people have a pretty positive view of eating at the dining table. And this falls directly in line with our experts’ advice telling us that it can help us in an array of physical and psychological ways – from lower BMIs, to helping us differentiate between emotional and physical hunger, to improved self-confidence in children.
So… Where did it all go wrong?
Why then, if so many of us aware of the benefits of eating around the dining table, are we failing to do so regularly? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly it looks like many of us simply can’t settle down to dinner without one of our favourite shows on the telly – and actually prefer this to participating in conversation over their meals. There could also be a chance that what people are eating is having an impact on their decision to eat on the sofa, with lots of people regularly getting takeaways – aka the perfect ‘TV dinner’ – as well as pre-packed ‘ready meals’. The stats show us that a lot of this probably boils down to simply being too busy to cook.
And finally… What can we do about it?
There can be lots of reasons we put off eating around the dining table, from kids’ tantrums to not feeling as though we have enough time. Here’s what our experts say on combatting the dinner-time deterrents:
Tip 1: Design a dining space to be proud of
If people find eating at the dining table a struggle, try making the space more attractive – that means no clutter and mess! And if you don’t have room for a big dining table, don’t be put off – experiment with different shapes, styles and materials - perhaps consider an oak dining table or an extendable dining table option!
Tip 2: Practice a dining digital detox
Try to ban all tech from your mealtimes to prevent distraction while eating – but be sure to go by your own rules if you do. Parents need to model appropriate behaviour for their children, so there’s no point insisting that the children can’t use tech if they’re guilty of checking emails!
Tip 3: Carve out some real time for eating
To avoid negative feelings of anxiety and stress caused by eating on the go at work, be sure to carve out dedicated time for your lunch break in which you pay attention to your emotions and to eating.
Tip 4: Create a sense of routine
Develop a structured mealtime routine to make it a regular part of your day: set the table, institute a regular time each day, and communicate work and after-school schedules with family members. Encourage children to talk meaningfully about their days.
Tip 5: Get the kids involved
To make dining around the table more enjoyable for children, involve them in food prep and shopping, and when you sit down to eat – try to keep conversation interesting for the whole family!
From beautiful new dining sets, to digital detoxes and eating mindfully, there are plenty of ways to reclaim your mealtimes as an enjoyable, stress-free part of healthy living. Goodbye TV dinners, hello health and happiness.
Thanks to Psychologist, Dr Lucia Giombini, Family Therapist, Dr Reenee Singh and Registered Nutritional Therapist, Samantha Paget for providing the expert insight needed to create this piece.