Healthy Fall Eating Habits to Bring the Family (Back) Together
Cozy knit sweaters and a lingering chill in the air. Changing leaves, with yellow and orange hues nestled together. All around us are signs that autumn has arrived! Along with the change of season comes a flurry of activities and for many of us, a shift in routine from the sun-filled summer days, to kids returning to the classroom.
But the back-to-school feeling isn’t just for students. Many use September to reset and organize, especially when there is a new schedule to adapt to. Families tend to prioritize healthy eating habits this time of year, so that everyone is well fueled for busy days ahead – and prepared for the less-than-opportune cold and flu season.
Healthy lifestyle habits can make the fall transition go much smoother and keep everyone happier and healthier, but they also offer wonderful opportunities for togetherness! From shopping the fall harvest at local farmer’s markets to sitting together for meals without distractions, here are some ways to bring your family even closer together this fall.
Calling a weekly family meal planning session has many benefits. Everyone can contribute their ideas and preferences to the menu; whether it’s a family comfort dish, a favorite snack for the lunch box or getting adventurous with an exciting new ingredient.
In addition, planning out meals for the week helps to develop food literacy – household attitudes, skills and knowledge about food. Not to mention the benefits of keeping grocery budgets on track, less impulse buying, and accounting for on-the-go snacks and school lunches. Make grocery shopping a family affair and have kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable to pique their interest. Take advantage of the fall harvest and check out local farmer’s markets to get some inspiration from nourishing seasonal foods.
Getting organized strengthens a family’s team spirit and leads to healthier eating options. You can find delicious whole foods, healthier convenience options and even natural health products (NHPs) for a seasonal supplement program to nutritionally equip you and your family for a busy autumn at your local CHFA Member health food store.
Unplug to Connect
“Distracted eating” means eating while doing another activity, as noted by a Statistics Canada report on Canadians eating habits. In fact, the report showed that close to six in ten Canadians eat while doing another activity; 53 per cent while using technology, 33 per cent watching TV, 19 per cent preparing meals, 15 per cent listening to the radio or reading and 14 per cent working or studying. Consider making dinner a “no-screen” zone – keep phones or tablets away from the table in another room and turn off any background TV noise. These boundaries help to bring everyone’s focus to the present, encouraging conversation and connection.
According to the report, 30 per cent of Canadians eat all their daily meals alone and 34 per cent never eat a meal with their children under the age of 15. Getting everyone to lend a hand in getting dinner to the table, and avoiding screens altogether leading up to the family meal, creates closeness in working together and encourages learning and developing new skills. A family that cooks and eats together, reaps the benefits of a unique bond!
Preparing food, washing up and setting the table gets everyone engaged, with the added benefit of “many hands make light work” – less stress, less rush and less reliance on processed foods. You can get the kids – from young to adolescent – interested in helping out in the kitchen with colourful, creative recipes like Arugula Pesto Spaghetti Squash for dinner, No Bake Apple Pear Crisp for dessert, and Sweet Potato Jerky for lunch box snacks!
Eat Well – Digest Well!
Nurturing family presence and togetherness around mealtime also promotes healthier digestion! Being mindful and relaxed during food preparation cues the digestive system to prepare for eating – something that may not happen if people are busy scrolling through social media or playing video games. Plus, being present in the moment and eating mindfully at meals slows the pace of the meal so that the flavour can be fully enjoyed, and the body is ready to break down your food for proper absorption of nutrients.
Family togetherness goes hand in hand with eating well, and encouraging healthy eating habits can build new traditions and shape family values. Taking the time to establish simple approaches can help to set you up for a healthy and happy autumn! But remember to keep it real. Sometimes rituals don’t fit into the everyday rush, and some days it can be tricky to get everyone together for a meal. Reconnect and reset, even if last week’s best laid plans go off the rails (hey – it’s life!), and be sure to visit a local CHFA Member health food store for healthy foods, snacks and ingredients for all your family’s nourishment needs this autumn.