We have long understood that food can serve much more than just a nutritional need. Because it is so essential to life, individuals can relate and connect through food and nutrition. Culture includes the beliefs, customs and habits of a group of people, and each cultural group has access to its own food and creates its own food habits. Home cooking proves to be particularly beneficial in providing mental stimulation and creativity. It also provides additional stimuli, such as aromas, to the senses that aid in meal satisfaction. Preparing food gives people shared experiences, just as eating socially does.
How we eat is also a derivative of our cultures, and table manners can be one of the earliest teaching opportunities for parents. Kids can be receptive to learning table manners as soon as they can sit and eat independently. Some of the more basic etiquettes include washing hands prior to sitting down, sitting up straight with a napkin placed in ones lap and waiting for other before beginning to eat. Family meals offer opportunities to not only model good table manners, but they also offer times to try new foods and practice appropriate responses to those things that kids may not particularly like. While cultural influences may afford some mealtime differences, using proper utensils, chewing with ones mouth closed and not reaching across the table are all still standard behaviors to follow.
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Cheyenne is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in the Charleston, SC area.