The family meal has played an important role in the history of all cultures. A recent article published in the Daily Mail suggests that the family meal is disappearing. Our busy lifestyles are compromising this long-standing tradition. Snacks, alcohol, and microwaveable foods are replacing cooked and shared meals.
I define a meal as a cooked grain and a separate vegetable dish. This is the minimum requirement of components to get complete, balanced nutrition and to feel satisfied. The centerpiece of any meal should be a cooked grain, such as brown rice, pasta, or polenta. Granola, muesli, popped corn or other dried grains, such as rice cakes, do not count as part of the grain component for meals. The meal is then completed by any type of prepared vegetable dish, like a stew or a salad. Brown rice and steamed kale or pasta and salad are excellent examples of complete and balanced meals.
Meals serve a valuable function in our life. Eating at regular times without skipping meals regulates all of our body’s functions including digestion, elimination, blood sugar, appetite, and moods. The time at which we begin our meal regulates our metabolism and our ability to digest, process, and eliminate the unused portions of our food. Eating at the proper times makes our metabolism healthy and active. Skipping meals stagnates our metabolism and contributes to excess weight gain and blood sugar problems. Try to make lunch your most regular meal. By starting your lunch before 1 pm you will help to stabilize your blood sugar and metabolism.
I think of meals as the glue of society. Meals bring stability to the family and build communication and a sense of belonging. Even though my mother passed away many years ago, I still have fond and powerful memories of our family meals, especially at holidays. Now my own children look forward to these family gatherings, even after they have grown and moved on to develop their own lives. I even observe my three year-old grandson already walking in the door, anxiously awaiting a family meal. Meals also connect us with the past. They preserve our traditions and unite us as a family. Meals brings a richness into our lives that cannot be replaced. The rewards of emotional and spiritual nourishment and enrichment are well spent.