Modern day meal deal

Family dinners might be a thing of the past for many modern families, but a new Monash University study suggests there’s great merit in a more flexible, modern approach.

The research found families are often eating dinner on the go, at the kitchen bench or in front of the television.

Victorian primary school aged children kept a video and photo log of meal times, providing researchers with a unique look into how families are coping with busy lifestyles and schedules and the impact on eating habits.

Likewise, the families interviewed gave an insight into their long work hours, busy schedules and commitments, with some children eating in the car.

Family meals were more likely to be reserved for special occasions and regular meal times, and were less formal and more practical.

Monash Professor of Sociology Jo Lindsay said it was time to challenge the expectations of the role of sit-down family meals.

“We’ve found the traditional sit-down dinner is not the reality we’re seeing in most busy Australian households. Instead, families configure meals in a variety of practical ways to provide nourishment and manage time pressures and relationships,” Professor Lindsay said.

“We don’t want parents feeling like a moral failure or that they are compromising their child’s health because they are eating separately or in front of the television, it’s just not the case.

“Rather than promoting meals of a bygone era, this research suggests that supporting flexible and healthy eating beyond the dinner table may be a more fruitful strategy for promoting public health, and could create a more peaceful and practical mealtime.”