The Commensal Meal

In today’s fast-paced world, many of us (about 70%) tend to eat meals alone, often not bothering with plating or presentation, but opting instead to open the fridge, and by its guiding light, devour the contents of take-out boxes and left-over Birthday cake. It does not come as a surprise, then, that those who eat alone, have imbalances in their nutrition, whether it be weight gain or nutritional deficiencies through lack of variety. Although there is very little scientific literature out there on the topic, where there may be some consensus on the commensal meal’s impact on children’s nutritional choices later in life, as well their emotional relationship with food in adulthood. Specifically, children who eat with their parents tend to engage in ‘modelling’, whereby they emulate the food choices of their parents. So, if Dad loves asparagus, chances are, little Jimmy will learn to love it, too, although perhaps not right away, but five years from now. If Jenny’s Mom is tucking into a generous helping of Shepherd’s pie, then 12-year-old Suzy is less likely to be pre-occupied with the caloric content of everything she eats. In the adult population, commensal eating has been shown to increase consumption of ‘treats’, such as cookies and pies, but there is nothing wrong with indulging once in a while. And that is probably why this relationship exists, because we rarely get together for a meal, unless it constitutes a special occasion. Perhaps if we made commensal meals more of a staple in our culture, then we would not always feel the need to have a towering cake on stand-by, but be simply contented by the company we keep.


About danirenouf

I have been a registered dietitian since 2003, and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in industry, clinical nutrition, public health, and private practice. Currently, I am extremely excited about pursuing entrepreneurial ventures which start with my private consulting practice and branch out into the food and culinary industry. I am busy every day developing my own food products and recipes, adapting traditional cooking techniques and incorporating new and innovative ways to prepare nutritious, delicious food. I am passionate about everything food-related, and aspire to engage others in "getting to know their food" - not all of us are cooks, or need to be, but all of us need to eat.
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