Our Story Begins:
Time And Truth.. The Lowdown On Fast Food And Families
An article in The Atlantic speaks of a UCLA study by two anthropologists who studied the way families interact and eat.
What they found wasn’t encouraging.
Families not only spend less time eating together, they also eat more pre-packaged and convenience foods. Worse still, the study found that making dinner with those foods, or even just grabbing food from restaurants or getting fast food, doesn’t really save that much time.
I’ve been saying that for over a year here on Good Enough Mother.
I’m not some tree-hugging, organic-only kind of guy. I use canned tomatoes, but I also buy vegetables and unbleached flour and all that. I make meals in my home nearly every night. I also make all the treats that become either a small dessert or the treat in the kids’ lunches.
It didn’t take a two or three year study by anthropologists for me to figure it out. My sons can have a couple of my chocolate chip cookies and they are the same as always. Give my son Sam a single, store-bought goodie and I’m peeling him off the ceiling.
I’d already made the same connection as the authors of the UCLA study. The amount of time it took to make the pre-packaged dinners or the “easy-bake” desserts took nearly or just as long as the stuff I made from scratch.
The other part of the study which was, in my opinion, just as disturbing, was the fact that parents are allowing kids to dictate too much of their lives. When football, soccer, volleyball, or any number of extracurricular activities create a situation where the family never meets, talks, or eats together then you might as well pack up shop now.
We suffered from the disease of too many things but enjoying none of them. So the first thing I did was limit the off-campus activities. Hard as it was we stopped scouting – boy and girl. The kids each got one activity they love – Hannah has music; Abbi has drama; Sam has choir; Noah art/music. All of them fit into the after-school extended day schedule and they all are home when I get home.
I make dinner. We eat dinner together. Where the days of “I’ll grab something on the way to (insert activity here)” were eating away at us, I don’t any more. Even on nights where we don’t eat at the table, we eat together. Even if Abbi has play practice, we have food waiting for her when she gets home – late – with the assurance that I’ve given her a snack to eat at practice.
This is what being a family is for us; being together. They see that their dad can be a cook, laundress, artist, musician, writer, journalist, and father. It’s not the stereotype, though we are the stereotypical family. I didn’t need a study; I had the example of good parenting from my own childhood. When I was lost and looking for what to do, I went back to the blueprint that had built the foundation of my own life.
Could you do that too? Do your kids (and their activities) dictate what, where and when you eat? Do you eat more out of convenience than as a family? Is your house filled with stuff that shouldn’t be there in the first place?
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.