Eat Like it Matters: Family & Community

Gathering around a table to share a meal with loved ones is truly one of the most wonderful things in life. Not only can this ritual be a way to build community and strengthen relationships, but it’s also a powerful way to develop more conscious eating habits, and to find a moment or two of presence in a hectic world.

Eating with others connects us to our ancestors and our cultural traditions. For nearly as long as humans have been around, so too have some semblance of mealtimes, designated times and places to share food, no matter how meager or bountiful. These moments also emerged as a time to share stories or gain wisdom from elders.

At ZENB, we’re always thinking of ways to put our “Eat Like it Matters” philosophy into action. In our modern world, we believe that sharing meals takes on its own important shape. Life can be so hectic, and many of us often take meals on the go, at our desks, or even in front of the TV. Whatever space you can intentionally carve out for a shared meal automatically helps to create a connection that has so much meaning in the midst of our society, where so much interaction is virtual.

Sharing a meal with someone else can expose you to new cultures and cuisines, and can strengthen social bonds too, which research has shown can help improve mental health and extend life expectancy (check out this article from Harvard School of Public Health to learn more).

Connections come in so many forms. This could mean a housemate or neighbor; a new friend, crush, or partner; a co-worker or colleague; or an extended family member. Meals don’t always have to be eaten around a traditional dinner table either — park benches, porch swings, and picnic blankets are also perfectly wonderful places to catch up with someone while sharing a delicious meal, like our Agile Bowls. Whether it’s sitting around a campfire, on a stoop, or at an elegantly set table, what it’s all about the simple act of being and eating together. That’s what makes eating matter!

If you live far from home, perhaps you have a chosen family or close network that you care about. Potlucks are a powerful way to collectively prepare a meal; these gatherings remove the burden of responsibility from any one person, and let each guest bring and share a dish that they love (we can’t stop recommending our Truffle Mushroom Mac and Cheese). Or, a retro-inspired progressive dinner (where a group of neighbors each hosts one course of a meal in their home, and everyone walks to each other’s houses as the night goes on), is a charming way to engage with those who live nearby that you might want to get to know better. Get them talking with these trendy Spaghetti Nest appetizers!

It’s well-documented that family dinners are beneficial for children too. According to Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, family meals can help children develop manners, communication skills, positive self-esteem, and sensible eating habits that can affect their dietary choices well into the future. It can be so hard to make family dinner happen with competing schedules, evening meetings, and social engagements. But, it’s important to remember that the food itself doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair. There are lots of great tips and hacks for how to make quick, easy dinners; ZENB super-quick cooking Pasta Agile is a great example of an ingredient that helps you accomplish that.

Make those mealtimes with kids a bit more special and memorable. Putting on a fun playlist and inviting everyone into the kitchen to help with some aspect of cooking is a great start. Sharing responsibilities of setting the table and cleaning up helps teach collaboration and accountability, too. Even designating time in the beginning of each week to meal-plan as a group can help everyone — even the littlest chefs — feel involved.

If you’re looking for some easy, delicious ideas for meals to share with family and friends, check out the ZENB recipe collection, which features over 150 plant-fueled (and crowd-pleasing) recipes. And, for more inspiration on how to “Eat Like it Matters,” follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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