Ask a Dietitian: Is Eating at the Table Really That Important?

It seems more commonplace to chow down dinner on the couch than at the dining table these days – no big deal, right? So why did our parents drum into us that we needed to eat at the table (and turn the TV off)? Well, it turns out they were right and there are a few benefits to pulling up a proper chair and moving your plate from lap to table.

1. It can reduce overeating 

Reducing distractions (like the latest season of The Bachelor or Instagram memes) will allow you to eat mindfully – enjoying your food, being aware of what you actually ate and how it tasted. Research has shown that mindless eating (eating while distracted) makes us eat more of the food in front of us (even when we are full) and eat more later on in the day, potentially leading to struggles with weight management.

When we’re more focussed on the football we’re watching over the food we’re eating, we are likely to gobble the food down without even noticing, overeat without registering how full we are and therefore snack more later on in the day. Sitting down to eat meals with no distractions proves beneficial in reducing obesity and increasing healthy eating habits.

2. It's good ol' fashioned quality time

Sitting down at the table with family, friends or roommates can be good for our emotional and mental health! As can the routine and stability of a commitment to dinner together each evening. This is especially important for improving children and teens’ behaviour as they can feel a sense of belonging and structure in their lives. Research has also found that eating dinner with family and friends at the table can help reduce depressive symptoms.

3. Eating on the go can impact digestion

We live in a fast paced, busy world and sometimes you’re short on time. It’s times like these where we eat lunch at our desk or scoff toast in the car on the way to work. Eating on the go is not harmful to our body, but our body most certainly prefers us to eat mindfully, sitting down at a table.

When we eat on the go we are actually eating under stress. Even walking to work or frantically sending emails at work can inhibit our body's natural processes. Although these two examples may not seem like stressful situations as such, the body and brain is focusing on other things and thus is not ready to digest food. These distracting stimuli can impair our bodies ability to digest fully. As a result, you may experience heartburn, the feeling of food sitting in your stomach and bloating. The stress induced slow digestion can also decrease the absorption of nutrients.

So now that you know the importance of mindful eating, set your alarm for ten minutes earlier tomorrow and sit down and eat your toast before heading to work. It could do you a world of good!

Explore more content like this in our series, Ask a Dietitian.

Health & Performance Collective is the brainchild of Sydney Dietitians Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod. They use their 20 years of combined knowledge and skills as dietitians to work with motivated people to live and perform at their best.

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