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Volume III
January 20, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

7 Great Reasons to Consistently Have Dinner

By Alice Osborne

There's a lot of research about why having dinner on a consistent basis is good for us.

If there are children in the home, regular family dinner keeps parents and children engaged and connected. It's the perfect time to teach children life skills and encourage a work ethic. Research says kids who are lucky enough to consistently eat with family stay off drugs, out of trouble, and grounded in healthy habits.

But what about us empty-nesters? Are there any benefits to our eating a planned dinner on a consistent basis at a consistent time during the day? Research says absolutely! Consider this:

1) We experience better nutrition. Planning and executing meals minimizes the junk-food snacking older adults slip into. In fact, it eliminates the habit of settling for junk food as dinner! This is a very common pattern in older folks because it's easy - toast and butter some bread, and call it good. We might get away with this once in awhile, but as a habit, it's bad news for our overall health.

2) We experience better digestion. A planned meal generally doesn't involve empty-caloried foods (aka junk food), which are really hard to digest, not to mention dangerous to the waistline.

3) We experience better sleep. This is tied closely to better digestion. When we've had an early evening meal of nutrient-dense, healthy foods, our digestive system has an easier time of moving things along, which allows the body better rest during bedtime.

4) We have better control of our grocery budget. Lots of us empty-nesters eventually end up living on fixed incomes. And planning meals and using this meal plan to create a grocery list for our shopping pleasure, can save a lot of money over the long haul.

5) We have more continuity and structure to the day. Time can slip away - hours just melt into more hours and this pattern can be depressing because of the lack of order and accomplishment in the day. Dinner time with a well-planned meal serves as an anchor to each day because it is something healthy and happy to look forward to!

6) We enjoy the benefits that cooking for ourselves offers: we get a little exercise from the activity, we keep our minds sharp through the reading of recipes and executing step-by-step processes, we relish the sights and smells cooking provides, and we know what we're eating because we cooked it (no mystery ingredients, etc.).

7) And if we have a spouse, house mate, or other family member living with us, then we experience the sociality that eating with others offers.

Overall (and perhaps the bottom line), research says empty-nesters who consistently have dinner enjoy a better quality of life. Who would've thought that something as simple and commonplace as the evening meal could be such a big deal?

And if you'd like more information, tips and ideas, recipes, motivation, etc. on family dinner, you might go to a blog I write with Jeanne Wolfley (writer for the monthly HomeCook'n Newsletter), Making Family Dinner Hour Possible. So what do you say, shall we commit to consistently having dinner - whether it's with children, grandchildren, or just us empty-nesters? Let's go for it and experience these 7 benefits this year!

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