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Overweight and unhappy? Here's a good reason why...

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
February 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

One in five American breakfasts now come from McDonald's. Half of all meals are eaten outside of the home, and nearly all family meals are consumed with each member of the household eating a different microwaveable entrée while watching TV.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An entire body of research has shown that the eating habits of Americans have changed dramatically in the past century. In 1900, only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside of the home. Today, families will have an average of three meals together in the span of a week. 

More family meals are served in the minivan than at the kitchen table.

This is a serious and underappreciated epidemic with a very easy fix. As such, a rapid rise in awareness is necessary. 

The research has been available for a very long time, and that's not to mention the dictates of common sense. Children who share regular meals with their parents around the table do better in every imaginable way, at least statistically. Such children are 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 50 percent less likely to smoke, and 66 percent less likely to use drugs such as marijuana. 

Regular family meals have been credited with protecting children from eating disorders, and the use of diet pills. They directly combat childhood obesity. 

Despite this, Americans say they are too busy to cook, and prefer to "nuke" their food or grab something on the go.  But television ratings tell the truth - Americans spend more time watching the Food Network than cooking meals. 

Partly guilty, is the food industry which has convinced a susceptible public that they are too busy to cook, or that their family meals are best enjoyed in public. Natural whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables shouldn't need ad campaigns, but they are never advertised. Sitcoms regularly place restaurant food and brand names on screen, but simple, healthy foods are conspicuously absent.  

Just over a century ago, we ate locally produced, mostly "organic" foods. Fast food didn't exist, and processed food was a rarity -a rarity that was indulged only occasionally by the wealthy. Also nonexistent were obesity epidemics, a marriage failure rate in excess of 50 percent, and an entire host of dangers and pitfalls that pitted children against their parents, and shattered families. 

And it's not entirely the food industry's fault for making money. The fact is, we have chosen convenience and high sugar, high fat, chemical-laden, high-speed meals over quality time with our families. The food industry has done nothing more than respond to our demands.  

This is a problem entirely of our own making and there is no reason why we cannot also be the solution. It's as easy as investing time and energy to cooking nutritious foods and sharing them with the family. And in the days of recordable television (you can watch it later), dish washing machines, and time-saving kitchen gadgets galore, there should be no excuse not to keep at least one regular mealtime each day - if not two or three. 

It is a simple choice really. We can grab unhealthy food on the go and blame everyone but ourselves for the success of our family and our health, or we can make a simple investment of time and reap the benefits of a stronger family, healthier bodies, longer lives, and more happiness. 

Health and happiness shouldn't be the sole domain of the sitcom family. It is within our reach, and if we care about the success of our families, we should invest the time we have been given with the ones we love.

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