Edit ModuleShow Tags
Published:

Digital Dining Etiquette for Healthier Habits



Digital Dining Etiquette for Healthier Habits

Photo: Thinkstock/Ridofranz


Eating together, or commensality, is common — anyone, even animals, can do it — but convivial eating, or fully engaging with someone during a meal, is less common these days. National Nutrition Month is upon us, and the theme is “Put your Best Fork Forward.” Eating well isn’t just about nutrients, though, but how you think about eating, and even how you think about those with whom you eat.

Multiple studies link family meals in which all members are fully present with benefits ranging from better food choices to decreased drug and alcohol abuse by teenagers.  Research focusing on conviviality links social interaction at meals as a key component in strengthening family ties and teaching children empathy, including how to notice and interpret facial, eye and vocal tone cues.

And yet, conviviality is a conscious but declining social choice these days. Often, at restaurants, we see tables full of diners’ heads bent over their glowing laps. They’re physically there, but they’re not giving their fellow tablemates their full attention.

In a Pew Research Center survey, 82 percent of adults felt cell phone use during social gatherings hurt the atmosphere or conversations of the group. Yet, despite those concerns, 38 percent felt it was generally OK to use cell phones at restaurants. But family dinners? No — only 12 percent of respondents felt that cell phones belong at the family table.

Making Meals Non-Mobile

Including the phone at the dinner table can weaken social ties and ruin opportunities to create an environment of comfort and support. Some research reports children and young adults feeling insecure and neglected because of adults dining with devices at family meals.

This is why Rebecca Wheeler, culinary instructor, food tour guide and mom, treats her family dinners as sacred times. Her and her husband’s concern was that picking up or even glancing at a device during dinner was not only a distraction, but a subtle message that something else was more important than eating together. As parents, they’ve resisted their own tech temptations at the table, instead modeling a message meant to teach their kids good habits around technology.

Mobile Meal Etiquette for Healthier Dinner Habits

Consider adopting your own basic phone etiquette to help create healthier and more socially considerate dinner habits. Start by examining your motivations and priorities. Is that phone call, text, email or social media post critical? What’s behind the need or desire to respond? Can it wait until after the meal? Will a crisis evolve if you take a break to prioritize people who want to enjoy your company while dining?

Here are some tips to virtually eliminate the use of electronics at the family dinner table:

Nuke the notifications. Don’t tempt yourself. If you decide to devote your attention to socializing with others, turn off your phone or its notifications and place it out of sight.

Don’t look distracted or disengaged. Even a text, short email or glance at the phone to check for updates immediately communicates that someone else who is not at the meal is more important. Don’t buy into the myth that you can multitask conversations in meaningful ways.

Acknowledge your fellow eaters' feelings. If a potential phone distraction is likely or feels unavoidable, share that you have a time-sensitive or important issue which may require your attention and apologize, in advance.

Don’t invite a virtual third party to the table. If you must take a call, leave the table to talk without being overheard. This avoids disrupting the meal and making your priority everyone else’s business.

Protect against pathogenic phones. Finally, consider the food-safety angle. More than 90 percent of phones carry common bacteria. Clean your phone often and wash your hands after using it, especially if you’re eating.

Consider the month of March a time to adopt new cell phone habits that can pay off with better health, wellbeing and relationships. At the very least, your memories of engaging with friends or family over a meal are likely to last longer than your latest cell phone session.


Michele Redmond, MS, RDNMichele Redmond, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and French-trained chef, teaches and consults on the topics of culinary nutrition, gastronomy, taste literacy and how culture affects food enjoyment and health. She directs The Taste Workshop and periodically conducts taste workshops at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Read her blog, Le Blog, and connect with her on PinterestTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Edit Module

More Stone Soup

Start Your Day with Fiber: Nutty Chocolate Couscous Breakfast Bars

Start Your Day with Fiber: Nutty Chocolate Couscous Breakfast Bars

From providing satiety and cholesterol-lowering effects to improving gut motility and blood-sugar control, fiber's positive effects are numerous.
Roasted Asparagus with Feta Cheese

Roasted Asparagus with Feta Cheese

Besides the delicious flavor combination of lemon peel and feta cheese topping the asparagus, the best part about this recipe is that it takes about 5 minutes to prep and only 10 minutes to cook!
Crack an Egg for Dinner

Crack an Egg for Dinner

I’m excited to write about eggs because I think they are a fabulous food for four distinct reasons.
5 Tips for a Guilt-Free New Year's Eve Party

5 Tips for a Guilt-Free New Year's Eve Party

We're halfway through the holidays — also known as "diet sabotage season" — and there's one major hurdle left: the New Year's Eve party!
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Advertise with Food & Nutrition
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags


Stone Soup

Guest bloggers from around the world share with Food & Nutrition Magazine.

About This Blog

Stone Soup is a guest blog written by members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Content — including information, recipes and views expressed — is that of the authors and does not reflect the positions or policies of Food & Nutrition Magazine or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bloggers are required to pledge they will not write for Stone Soup on topics, companies or trade organization they currently represent or have represented at any time.

Learn about our guest blogs!

Comments Policy

Food & Nutrition Magazine provides this forum to exchange ideas, opinions and contributions within a positive community. Diverse viewpoints and constructive, respectful dialogue are welcome. Rudeness, misinformation, self-promotion and abuse are not. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate this policy or our Terms & Conditions. You must include your name or be logged into a personal account on Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to comment.

Archives

Edit Module

Get Stone Soup in Your RSS

Use your RSS reader's instructions to add Stone Soup to your list:

Atom Feed Subscribe to the Stone Soup Feed »

Get Our Blogs in Your Email

Stone Soup
Student Scoop