Families that eat together are healthier together, or so says LANCEWOOD in their recent Quality Time Report on South African families.
These days our lives are so fast-paced and filled with all sorts of distractions that it’s difficult to take a moment to actually be, well, in the moment. From work and traffic to parental responsibilities and social media, there seems to be an endless routine of ‘busy’ – too busy to even enjoy mealtimes anymore.
For decades now, the amount of time families spend together, especially during mealtimes, has been on the decline. That was until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Last year, many of us were forced to stomp on the brakes and slow it down. We were confined to our homes in an effort to stay safe and limit infections, and this meant numerous families were spending more time together.
It was also during this time that local dairy producer LANCEWOOD conducted their Quality Time research study, which aimed to understand how families spend their mealtimes. Needless to say, the results were interesting.
The study was conducted between 12 June and 6 July 2020 with 2 100 participants. LANCEWOOD collaborated with four local experts to share further insight on the research findings and assist South Africans with enhancing quality time over meal-times. This included psychologist Dr Ilse de Beer, TV personality and cookbook author Zola Nene, media personality and author Vanessa Raphaely, and former magazine editor and stylist Vicki Sleet.
According to LANCEWOOD’s report, 89% of respondents believe that quality time with friends and family is important. Yet it found that while quality time during meals is valued, there are many responsibilities and barriers that prevent families from prioritising it. These barriers include work (62%), household chores (36%), school activities (35%) and traffic (21%) being the main culprits.
However, many of these barriers were reduced or fell away during the nationwide lockdown last year. With many not working, sitting in traffic or going to school, the report found that 59% of participants said they are eating together more and 43% said that they are cooking together more. With the majority of people spending time at home, it meant that supper wasn’t the only mealtime that family members were present. Being at home all day meant that breakfast, lunch and dinner were prepared and enjoyed together as a family. On the other hand, 20% of the study participants reported that their eating behaviour hadn’t changed at all
The majority did notice a change though, and Zola reiterates this. ‘There was absolutely a change, and I know this because of the type of interaction I received on my platforms. People have to cook more, and they need help. They’re also looking for creative ways to elevate their meals without breaking the bank,’ she explains.
With life returning to a semi-normal state, it is understood that many of the challenges we faced when prioritising mealtimes will return. Yet the experts believe it is more important than ever for us to continue spending quality time together. ‘We need that sense of belonging, the sense of being accepted, a place of safety, and experiencing love and interest in one another’s life. If we do not spend quality time together, we lose that feeling of cohesion,’ says Dr de Beer.
Besides the distractions, there’s also this notion that mealtimes and food needs to be perfect in order for it to be enjoyed. ‘Sharing images of perfection are becoming the norm. But, remember that the image that is held up through social media is only an edited, highly curated version of what life is,’ says Vanessa. And it certainly doesn’t have to be the perfect family setting that we’re used to seeing in the media. Whether you and your family prefer to dine at the table, sit in front of the TV, eat on the floor, or use your hands, there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy your meals – and the same can be said for the food itself. Oftentimes a quick and easy meal is all that you can manage to muster up after a long day, and that is perfectly okay!
‘Creating a space in your home to eat, and actively clearing your mind to be present, goes a long way in having quality time. Where possible, try and separate your workspace from the area where you eat to help with distinguishing between work time and family time,’ suggests Vicki.
Food should always be a joyous occasion and so much more than simply nourishment. It is a way to celebrate, connect, share, show love and bond with others. So the next time you need to prepare a meal, why not involve the whole family, and turn an everyday moment into a quality mealtime moment.
By: Taryn Wilson
Photography: Gallo/Getty Images