Few things are as irrevocably tied to our health and well being as food. But while much attention is given to the kind of foods we eat, the way we eat and our relationship with food can be just as important.
Eating traditions and food culture have been all but abandoned in the US. Thanks to busy schedules, technological advances, and the aggressive marketing of convenience foods by the food industry, it is now both possible and acceptable to eat anytime and anywhere.
But what price do we pay for this new found convenience?
Efficiency and multitasking are appealing in a society where time is arguably our most precious commodity, but we must remember that in the food world what we gain in expediency we sacrifice in quality of life.
When our goals are to cook as little as possible, eat whenever convenient, and not worry about the origins of our food, we lose both the joy and good health food should bring to our lives.
Meal time is an opportunity to unplug from the daily grind and recharge both physically and mentally. Rather than viewing eating as a regular chore that needs to be accomplished as efficiently as possible, we should approach food as a source of health and pleasure to be nurtured and enjoyed.
The most basic satisfaction we take from food is the sensual pleasure of eating itself. Good food is delicious, and appreciating this gift of nature can bring tremendous joy to you and those you care about. A good meal deserves your full attention and requires little more than stepping away from the screen and sitting at a table.
Food also has the power to bring people together and strengthen relationships. A strong social network can have a tremendous impact on your quality of life, and meal time is one of the easiest ways to nurture this basic human need. Instead of gathering around the TV at dinner, try using this opportunity to share quality food and conversation with people you care about.
But the joys of food are not limited to highbrow meals with other people. Both cooking and sitting down to eat by yourself without disruptions from multimedia can create rare moments of peace and thoughtfulness, a chance to break away from the constant demands on your attention. Taking time to reflect each day can do more to reduce your stress levels than banging out just a few more emails while inhaling a sandwich.
Food also has the power to deepen your appreciation of nature and your community. When food is important to you, ingredients (and where they come from) quickly take center stage. Great ingredients are a product of both nature and the skill of the grower. Understanding all that goes into making a wonderful meal helps you appreciate the seasons, the soil and the agricultural community that are responsible for growing your food. Understanding and respecting the origins of what you eat helps connect you to our planet and your local community.
Since we eat three times a day, the various joys we get from food can contribute immensely to our quality of life. Though it might not be possible to slow down and unplug every time you eat, striving to step away from multimedia at least one meal a day can help you work more efficiently the rest of the time.
When we pay it our full attention, food simultaneously recharges us in both body and spirit. In this way, unplugging and enjoying a meal is its own form of multitasking.
How does cooking and eating improve your quality of life?
Darya is a scientist, foodie and advocate of local, seasonal foods. For more healthy eating tips visit her blog Summer Tomato. You can also connect with Darya on Twitter @summertomato and Facebook.