This year’s theme for Nutrition Month is “more than food”. Healthy eating is much more than just food. It includes cooking often and with nourishing ingredients, sharing our mealtime with others, being mindful of our eating habits, and embracing our own food culture and traditions.
For centuries, in addition to providing nutrition, food has held a social and ceremonial role in people’s lives. Having lived in Ethiopia, East Africa for many years, I always enjoyed witnessing the convergence of meals and socializing. The most popular food eaten in Ethiopia is injera. Injera is a flatbread made from teff – a whole grain high in calcium – used as an edible serving plate. Different dishes are then piled onto injera in the middle of the table, making it a colorful meal eaten communally. The meal is followed by an ornate coffee ceremony involving roasting fresh coffee beans, grinding them with a mortar and pestle, and cooking them in a clay coffee pot. Traditionally, coffee is first served to the eldest in the room followed by the rest, bringing together all the generations in a ceremony that celebrates food and culture, and creates memories.
Benefits of eating with others
When we eat in company and make our meals a small ceremony, even simple healthy ingredients can bring lots of satisfaction and create lasting positive change in our eating habits. According to Canada’s food guide, enjoying healthy foods with family, friends, neighbours or co-workers is a great way to contribute to a healthy lifestyle through:
- sharing food traditions across generations and cultures,
- exploring new healthy foods that you might not normally try,
- and creating a sense of community and fostering connection.
With busy schedules at work and home, making time to enjoy your meals with others can often get pushed aside. The key to making it happen is to schedule a time to eat together when there is less interference and to have everyone involved in preparing the meal.
- At home, choose a meal that gives you the most time to talk and connect. Consider using a combination of fresh ingredients and ready-made food items .
- With friends and colleagues, propose a potluck where everyone brings traditional or family recipe dish, and then spend time sharing the meaning and emotions behind these dishes.
Photo credit: Truelove Twumasi