Did you know that how you eat can be as important as what you eat? By making your meal times more of a social event with friends and family, it can help you enjoy and digest better. Check out one of our favourite excerpts below from “The Blue Zones Solution” by Dan Buettner.

“Elevating the act of eating to a social event may help you enjoy and digest your food better by making your meals a time of sharing and being together with friends and family. I’ve eaten countless meals with people in the Blue Zones, and they were often three-hour affairs with a succession of many small plates punctuated by toasts, stories, jokes and conversation. Mealtimes are celebrations, a time to give thanks, share stores, talk out problems, and bond as a family. Eating as a family forces you to slow down, making it less likely that you will overeat.

As a rule, people in the Blue Zones never eat alone, never eat standing up, and never eat with one hand on the steering wheel. As my Ikarian guide Thea Parikos pointed out, when her family sits down to a meal, she leaves the stress hormones of the day elsewhere. Ikarians, she said, eat slowly while holding conversation with family, a ritual good for building not only stronger family ties but healthier bodies.

How you eat can be as important as what you eat. If you eat on your feet and on the run, or driving in the car, stress hormones can interfere with your digestion and degrade food metabolism. Eating fast promotes overeating and, studies show, can double your risk of obesity. A 2011 study from the University of Illinois found that children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range and have healthier dietary and eating patterns than those who share fewer family meals together. Other benefits include a reduction in likelihood of being overweight (12 percent), eating unhealthy foods (20 percent), and an increase in the likelihood of eating healthy foods (24 percent). Adolescents who eat dinner with their family are 15 percent less likely to become obese. Additionally, a report by the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse points out that teens who eat dinner with their family more than three times a week are less likely to do poorly in school. Make sure you have a comfortable kitchen table, ideally a round one, that is small enough to encourage family conversation.”