What is President’s Choice® #EatTogether Day?
President’s Choice® (PC) #EatTogether Day is a day to celebrate joining communities, friends, and families for a simple meal that sparks the values of healthy eating and togetherness. Eating together has been a deeply held value for many people from across the world. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the absence of eating together, specifically in North America. Late busy nights have become more of a reality for many families with the balancing of work, activities, children, sports, technology, and school. As a result, many families feel as though there is simply no time to fit it all in!
“Despite Canadians’ desire to spend more time enjoying meals with those important to them, recent research has revealed they spend significantly more of their free time staring at a screen” – President’s Choice® 
On top of a crazy busy schedule, most Canadians spend their time interacting with technology. On average, almost 1 in 3 Canadians are spending more than 4 hours of their free time engaging with screens each day.
This is the fuel that started PC® #EatTogether Day. The PC® team recognized the need to bring back the tradition of eating meals together and wanted to inspire a movement that would turn this idea into a reality.
What is the #EatTogether Day event?
Three years ago Loblaws recognized there was an issue when a national survey completed by President’s Choice® found that Canadians spend significantly less time eating meals with friends and family. Last year, a study from Oxford Economics found that eating alone was the biggest contributor to unhappiness next to mental illness. With both of these factors, PC® realized they needed to take a stand, and #EatTogether Day was born. On June 14th, 2019, President’s Choice® will be celebrating its third #EatTogether Day. On this day, we ask you to make the pledge to eat together more often!
Loblaws retail locations will be designing picnic tables at their stores and inviting the community to #EatTogether. Watch for the giant picnic table travelling Canada, inviting people to eat together with fresh, healthy, home cooked meals from the PC® Cooking School. This initiative also travels to schools to help feed children who can not afford a healthy meal with the help of the PC® Children’s Charity Breakfast Club!
Why is it Important to Eat Together?
It has become well known that eating alone on a regular basis can actually cause many negative effects. Some of these can include lower academic success, lower job satisfaction, a higher chance of risk-taking behaviors, and poorer food choices. All of these can be reversed with a simple eat together plan!
Taylor B., the In-Store Dietitian at our local Zehrs store, is a big supporter of the #EatTogether Movement:
“Eating together provides the perfect time to be connected with friends and family in a time where we seem to be living in fast forward. Eating with others provides an opportunity to explore new foods, share cultural traditions, and enjoy a good old fashion face to face conversation (and yes that means without a phone in your hand). The new Canada’s Food Guide even includes eating together as one of its top, healthy eating tips! With our annual #EatTogether day happening June 14th, Loblaws is trying to remind Canadians to take a moment, sit down with others and enjoy a healthy meal. It is also important to get your children involved in the process of preparing meals, which is why we have launched the Raise a Food Lover program. The week of June 10th local Zehrs and Real Canadian Superstores will be providing breakfast to some local students in an effort to show the importance of having a nutritious breakfast, and enjoying that breakfast with others.” – Taylor B.
‘Okay, I understand that it is important, but kids don’t want to join family meals!’
You may be surprised to find out that when surveyed, 79% of teens said that they actually enjoyed family dinners!  So don’t let this myth stop you from enjoying meals with your family – as they are very important!
Importance of Family Meals
Family meals are the foundation of a family unit. Think back to your childhood… are there specific foods you fondly remember? Are important memories associated with these foods? Often times, meals are an important routine that can help families develop bonds, traditions, and experiences.
Importance of Incorporating Young People into Weekly Meals
Incorporating young people into weekly meals can help intellectual and cognitive development by engaging in stimulating conversations. Children get the opportunity to talk about their day, learn from others, and develop relationships. It is a time for everyone to share stories, food, and traditions through different generations and cultures.
Benefits of Eating Together
We talked about what #EatTogether Day is, and why it is important, but are there specific benefits to eating together? Yes! Eating together is good, not only for your body but also for your mind! Let’s take a look at some of the benefits to eating together:
- Improved Well-being – Social relationships help to increase overall well-being and decrease depressive symptoms. , Enjoying quality time together can help you to be happier, healthier, and develop better relationships with food and others!
- Bonding – Meal time allows for everyone to come to the table and share things with each other. It is a time for communication, reflection, and learning. Bonding is extremely important not just for developing minds, but also for maintaining a healthy mindset. Try mixing up some great conversations at your next meal!
- Expanding the Palate – Not only is the table a great place to introduce new conversations, but also to introduce different foods. Families can try exploring new and healthy meals with their children. Friends can bring food for each other from their homes and share their own family recipes. Everyone can explore different cultures and cuisines while expanding their palates!
- Healthy Meals, Portion Control, and Saving Money – Often times when people gather for meals together, a lot of home cooking is involved. For these sit down meals, you can control more of what is put into the meal, what sizes the portions are, and you can help yourself (and your family) be more accountable about the nutrients you eat. Also, home cooked meals are often cheaper than going out to eat!
How Can You Eat Together More?
While eating meals together as a family might seem something like a fantasy within your busy schedule, the Greenhouse Education Center (GEC) Nutrition Educators are here to help make it more of a reality within your own home. Here are 4 simple tips on how to help your family to eat together more!
4 Ways to Help Your Family Eat Together More
- Be Flexible – Your family may be more inclined to dine together by giving them a choice on where and what to eat! This will help them to feel a special connection to the dining experience. If dinner is too busy of a time to spend with all of your family members, try opting for another meal together such as breakfast. That way you are still getting the opportunity to spend that quality time together while sharing a meal!
- Plan Ahead – If the biggest barrier to getting together for a meal is time, then some strategies to tackle the time crunch is to meal prep or cook in double batches. This will help to have quick and easy meals at your fingertips! It will also allow you to have more time to spend eating with your family and less time worrying about what to cook or how to fit it all in.
- Get Everyone Involved – A great way to ensure that everyone is present at meal times is to assign each person a role in the meal making process. No matter the age, there is always a job for someone. Whether it be setting the tables, cutting up the vegetables, or seasoning the food!
- Get Creative – A little creativity can go a long way when it comes to making family meals together a fun event! A good tip to get everyone excited for eating family meals together is to create themed nights such as taco tuesday! This will give the whole family something to look forward to. You may also find family meals difficult due to different members not liking the same foods. To combat this barrier, try setting out ‘build-your-own meal bars’ for your family so each member can customize their meal to their liking.
Strategies to Help Make Eating Together A Thing with Canada’s Food Guide
While these 4 easy tips can help make family meal time a little easier, the #EatTogether Movement is not just family specific! There are many ways to get involved and share a meal with roommates, friends, or neighbors. Canada’s Food Guide  suggests some further ways to #EatTogether more, including:
- Planning a breakfast date with some friends
- Participating in community celebrations and feasts
- Starting a regular community meal with your neighbors
- Have lunch with a coworker or a friend at school
- Plan a weekly dinner with extended family members or friends
- Start a dinner party among your friends where everyone takes turns hosting
We Made the Pledge
“Eating meals together allows me to feel connected to others and makes all of my meals that much more enjoyable when I am surrounded around the people that I love.” – Dana C.
“For me, family meals have always been a staple in my life. It is one of the few times I get to sit down and hear about my family’s day with our busy schedules. It is a special feeling when I get to share important life events with others and at the same time, listen, connect, and laugh with them.” – Bryn B.
Make the Pledge to Eat Together Today!
We hope that this blog has helped you to understand the importance of eating together. Remember, all it takes is some small steps to set up an opportunity to eat with others and enjoy each other’s company. When asked, most Canadians agree that when families eat together, children grow up happier and healthier and teens build stronger relationships with their parents. If you agree, take the President’s Choice® #EatTogether pledge today!
- President’s Choice (2019). PC® Eat Together Day 2019: Key Messages.
- Oxford Economics (2018). The Sainsbury’s living well index: A landmark study carried out by Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research. Retrieved from https://www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/~/media/Files/S/Sainsburys/living-well-index/sainsburys-living-well-index-may-2018.pdf
- Fruh, S. M., Fulkerson, J. A., Mulekar, M. S., Kendrick, L. A. J., & Clanton, C. (2011). The surprising benefits of the family meal. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 7(1), 18-22.
- Fulkerson, J. A., Ph.D., Kubik, M. Y., Ph.D., Story, M., Ph.D., Lytle, L., Ph.D., & Arcan, Chrisa, M.H.S., M.B.A., Ph.D. (2009). Are there nutritional and other benefits associated with family meals among at-risk youth? Journal of Adolescent Health, 45(4), 389-395.
- Government of Canada (2019). Eat meals with others. In Canada’s food guide. Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/eat-meals-with-others/