Now that the clocks have moved back an hour and the sun sets at 5:00 (why!?), it is sometimes hard to stay motivated throughout the evenings. Some nights I find myself eating dinner at 5:30 p.m. and snacking until I go to bed, a very unhealthy habit that I have been trying to kick. Luckily, I have found a solution to this dangerous cycle: make dinner with friends or family that is delicious, filling and fun to make.
In my opinion, the best way to prepare and enjoy food is with other people. Social connectedness, whether hanging out after work or sitting down at the table with friends and family for a nightly meal, has been shown to increase happiness and help alleviate depression. The simple act of gathering around the table helps establish connections, which studies have found are crucial in maintaining happiness and a sense of belonging. Enjoying dinner with friends or family accomplishes the goal of face-to-face interaction, while also supporting healthier eating choices.
Reaping the benefits of communal eating is pretty simple: Just gather some people together around food, sit down together, talk, eat and enjoy! Here are some tips for planning a meal with friends and family:
- Plan a potluck. Meals with friends are way more fun when one person doesn’t have to do all the work! Set up an email chain or text group to find out what dishes others are bringing! Also, try to set up a theme for the meal. It will be much easier, and more delicious if the plates share the same spices and flavor profiles. Too busy or don’t feel like cooking? Luckily there are tons of places in town with delicious, pre-made sides to bring! Assemble a salad at the Whole Grocer or pick up up a quart of soup from Pearl Street Market, or grab a fresh baguette from Persephone. All are great choices and will satisfy the other guests, while also ensuring your timely arrival!
- Set a date. Commitments are way harder to break when they are planned in advance. Yes, it may be a Wednesday night, and you just want to plop on your couch with a glass of wine, but make it happen! Studies demonstrate that people who eat alone were shown to have poorer eating habits than those who eat with others.
- Make a reservation. Find out that all your friends are less than gifted in the kitchen? No problem. Going out for a meal with friends or family allows you to reap all the benefits of communal eating without any of the post-meal cleanup. There are even a few restaurants around town still doing two-for-ones. All Fine Dining Restaurants, Orsetto and SUDA Izakaya are continuing their off-season specials through the end of November!
I hope this inspires some of you to make a plan, set a date and pick a recipe to share with friends or family. Remember, eating with others has many benefits and does not have to be a big production. Keep it simple and fun while sticking to your healthy habits!