The European Eating Habits The US Could Learn From

November 9, 2018

We are all guilty of picking up a banana on the way out of the house in the morning, eating our measly sandwich at our desks at lunch, and then worst of all, sitting in front of the TV to eat our dinner.

To see just how wrong we have it, recipe box provider Gousto has looked into the eating habits of a number of countries to see how much of their day is devoted to food and its impact on our health and wellbeing.

Fast food: Are we taking long enough to eat our meals?

Sat around the table at dinner is the perfect time to share stories from your day and connect with members of your family. However, according to OECD research, in the USA, we spend just 1 hour 1 minute a day eating our meals, making us bottom of the table. Should we be dedicating more quality time to our love of food like France and Italy? Are we really taking enough time to celebrate what’s on our plate?

In the UK, people spend 1 hour 18 minutes a day eating, in Germany, people spend 1 hour 36 minutes a day, in Denmark, it is 2 hours, and the French spend more time eating than anyone else: 2 hours and 11 minutes each day, more than double the time of the USA.

Greece and Italy are also spending a long time eating their meals, hot on the heels of France, taking 2 hours and 4 mins and 2 hours and 5 minutes respectively.

Our Canadian neighbors spend 1 hour 4 minutes each day making them second from last in the OECD list.

For those that have had a meal in both France and the USA, the difference in the length of time spent eating is unlikely to come as a surprise. In France, it is not uncommon to sit for two to three hours to enjoy a three-course meal. Eating in the US is a much faster experience and often involves getting in, getting fed, and getting out.

Could spending more time eating be better for our health and wellbeing?

According to further OECD research, just 17% of adults over 15 years of age in France were obese, compared to 40% of those in the USA.

The Gousto research also focuses on the importance of eating as a family around the table.

Countries who centre eating around family bonding and socializing through shared meals have been shown to have improved longevity, reduced rates of chronic disease, and lower rates of obesity according to The Food Marketing Institute Foundation.

Here, three specialists share their advice to make mealtimes healthy and social for the whole family:

Make the time in the morning to eat a proper breakfast as a family.

“A large and growing body of scientific evidence now supports the claim that breakfast really is a very important meal. The first thing to take note of here is how the failure to eat something at the start of the day can have surprisingly serious health consequences for those concerned. For instance, Cahill et al. documented a 27% increase in coronary heart disease amongst those North American men who regularly failed to eat a meal at the start of the day.” – Charles Spence, Wageningen University and Research Centre

Schedule a weekly dinner for the whole family to eat together and catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives.

“Eating together can happen at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Choose the meal that gives you the most time to talk and connect. If you do not usually eat together, start by scheduling one meal per week and increase the number as you are able.” – Health Link BC

Learn simple home-cooked meals that take little effort to prepare so you will be willing to make them even after a busy day at the office.

“Make it simple. I encourage you to remember that mealtime does not need to be a three-course meal that took two hours to prepare.” – Sara Lappe, M.D.

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