For all the parents feeling exhausted by the cooking, cleaning and planning of a million meals during the pandemic, there’s some good news. Commensality, or the sharing of food with others, is beneficial for your physical and mental health.
Most parents already know that family mealtimes are great for the bodies, the brains and the mental health of children. More than two decades of studies reveal that kids who eat with their families do better in school and have bigger vocabularies. They also have lower rates of depression, anxiety and eating disorders, as well as healthier diets and better cardiovascular health.
But what may come as unexpected news to beleaguered parents is that these same shared meals are also good for adults. Across the life span, from young parents eating with toddlers to parents talking about pandemic-coping strategies with their school-age kids and Medicare-eligible adults eating with younger generations, shared meals are associated with healthier eating and better mood.
Healthy for all adults, but especially for parents
For adults, both with and without children, there are numerous health benefits to eating with others. Even unrelated adults, like firefighters, have enhanced team performance when they cook and eat together as they await the call to action.
On the flip side, researchers have found that eating alone is associated with an increased likelihood of skipping meals and the downstream effects – lower intakes of nutrients, reduced energy and poorer nutritional health.
Regardless of parental status, adults who eat with others tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fast food than those who eat alone.
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