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Americans now eat one quarter of their meals inside their cars. Our multi-tasking, no-time-to-eat lifestyle has caused the kitchen table of yesteryear to be replaced by the car dashboard, and the fast food phenomenon is on the rise.

Ever willing to meet the changing trends, American businesses such as fast food outlets have developed laptop place mats to prevent clothes from getting soiled. Automakers such as Volvo have developed cars with refrigerated glove boxes and some models of Honda provide a pop-up table in the console. Typically, food consumed in vehicles is of a less nutritious, processed nature and is generally eaten faster than meals consumed at home or in restaurants.

Our meals weren’t always eaten alone or on the fly. Fact is, our ancestors spent most of their day hunting, gathering and preparing food—it was basic survival. When it came time to eat, they would do so in clans or tribes with an atmosphere of celebration. As babies, we were held while given milk and spoon feed by our caregivers. Indeed, connecting with others through food offers strong, nurturing social ties and is an integral part of our heritage.

Psychologist and researcher Jeanne Achterberg summarized the importance between social support and health as follows: “Lack of social relationships constitutes a major risk factor in health, one that is even greater than smoking and appears to be a strong predictor of longevity and mortality.”  

Research has also shown that children of families who sit down and share a meal together have less delinquent behavior and are better students. Without question, the busy demands of home, family and career make for challenging times.

Here are a few suggestions for integrating more wholesome foods and greater social contact into your family meals and your life.

  1. Develop the habit of a family sabbath. Plan one meal a week (or more often) that will be home cooked amongst family and friends. Share the stories of the day.
  2. Organize colleagues at work to participate in a weekly (or more often) healthy potluck for lunch. Someone brings a salad, another brings sandwiches, pasta, whatever. Make it fun and set the precedence of healthy, yet tasty foods.
  3. Brown bag it with friends once in awhile, rather than relying on fast food at meal time.
  4. Investigate local restaurants and delis near work and on your route home that offer healthier cuisine. A chicken Caesar salad, Greek salad or bowl of soup to go is a far wiser choice than greasy fries, burger and milk shake.
  5. If you must eat in the car, don’t drive! Pull over where the atmosphere and view are pleasant (the beach, trees, kids at play). Turn off the pager and cell phone and turn on nice, relaxing music. Take ten or fifteen minutes to nourish your body.

—Cheri Bianchini, RN, PHN
© 2012, Cheri Bianchini. All rights reserved.

Blog Image: © Rick Ruggles, Photographer.