This month, my family resumed what had been, pre-pandemic, annual trips to Turkey, where my wife was born. They have a different attitude toward food, a healthier eating style compared to all the processed foods in the U.S. and a wonderful flavor palate I find very inspiring. We were blessed to spend a week on a beautiful sailboat with family and extended family, where we were able to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. The experience emphasized some of the core lifestyle habits I try to practice.

No matter where you live, food and cooking bring people together. The boat’s chef prepared our meals, when we normally would have cooked for ourselves, but we dined and shared food and conversation and it was a great time to connect and enjoy each others’ company. Mealtime is a great opportunity to be present with each other and interact thoughtfully. Listen to what your dinner companions have to say: talk about the food, talk about everyone’s day, exchange ideas and truly connect with each other.

Cooking and eating together is an opportunity for children (and adults) to try new foods and learn to cook or expand their cooking skills. Studies have shown that people are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in growing, selecting and/or preparing them and if they see others eating them. Cooking skills and a palate that enjoys a wide variety of nutritious foods are invaluable throughout life.

It is important to have shared family experiences so both adults and children can connect with each other without using technology. Studies have shown that children who participate in family activities have higher self-esteem, fewer behavior problems and are better socialized than those who lack this family interaction.

Coordinating shared meals can take some planning, given our busy lifestyles and scheduled activities, but it is worth the effort. Get out your family calendar and schedule time to make this happen. In this frenzied world, it is important to take time to slow down, be together, relax and breathe. Your mental and physical health will be better if you do!