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Why eating together as a family is important

Family meals provide an opportunity for family members to come together, strengthen ties and build better relationships.

How much quality time do you and your children spend together during mealtimes? According to a study conducted by Lancewood titled The Quality Time, the majority of parents believe that quality time with their children at the dinner table is important. However, many indicated that this isn’t always possible due to our increasingly demanding, fast-paced, modern lifestyles.

How the study was conducted

2 100 respondents were interviewed online representing families across South Africa. Lancewood collaborated with four local experts to provide clarity and insights into the realities of households in their respective fields, adding context to the findings and sharing their simple tips to make the most of family mealtime.

Findings that emerged from the study include:
  • Work commitments and commuting are big barriers to families spending time together.
  • 59% stated that lockdown has allowed them to eat together more often and 43% are cooking together more.
  • Mom is the primary decision-maker when choosing what to cook, at 48%.
  • Almost half (45%) of the respondents spend their mealtimes watching TV or using their phones.

Food brings us together

Food is about much more than just nourishment. It’s a way of communicating, expressing creativity, and creating memories. It’s a way to mark a special occasion or offer comfort. Ultimately, food plays a major role in bringing people together. It’s considered ‘bonding time’ by many and a manifestation of love. “For me, food has always been an expression of love. It’s like presenting your soul on a plate to somebody. It’s the value you put into making sure that somebody enjoys whatever you give them to eat. Food is love – I think everybody thinks this, just to a different degree,” adds chef and food stylist Zola Nene

Creating quality mealtimes with your family does not have to be daunting. “It’s all about the simple things that can be done to make little moments more special and less mundane, so a good idea is to dial up your creativity and find new ways to serve up old favourites. Planning your meals ahead of time, bulk buying, cooking, and freezing meals helps to free up time, maximise your budget and bring back quality mealtimes,” says Shereen.

How to make the most of mealtimes

Experts share their tips to make the most of family mealtimes.

Finding the balance

“A meal doesn’t have to be a formal one. Just having a sandwich together, or even a cup of tea can do wonders to help families bond. There’s something about letting go of everything formal and finding simple and creative ways to spend time together,” says Vanessa. Shereen Anderhold from LANCEWOOD says, “With our busy and demanding schedules, it’s okay to opt for the quick and easy 15-minute meal in the week because there will be other days where you feel like making your ultimate Sunday lunch with all the bells and whistles. It is about finding the balance that works for you and your family.”

Create a space to eat together

While sitting down for meals at a traditional spot like a dining table or kitchen table may not always be practical, 34% say this is where they spend their mealtimes together. “Creating a space in your home to eat and actively clearing your mind to be present also 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,” says former Good Housekeeping editor and stylist Vicki Sleet.

Trouble with tech

“Many of us battle with too much screen-time. We’re all trying to cut down, but none of us have nailed it yet. However, technology isn’t always bad. It is about ensuring a healthy balance,” says Vanessa Raphaely, novelist, writer, and admin of The Village Online community.

Psychologist Dr Ilse de Beer advises, “Parents should encourage quality family time to engage and have fun. It is also important to limit time spent with technology. If we can balance these two things, I think our family structure will develop in a much healthier way.”  

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