The art of lively laughs and long dinnertime discussions are disappearing in Australia.
New Old El Paso™ research* shows only three in ten Australian families share a meal together each night and almost half of Aussie families admit they find dinnertime conversations difficult.
Four in five Aussie parents claim there are times when their family sits in silence at the dinner table!
However, there is a clear desire for better dinner discourse.
A whopping 95% of Australian parents believe conversations improve a meal.
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Research also shows the happiest households are the ones who take their time over meals and truly connect by discussing their day and sharing what’s on their minds. Experts have found that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.
“Australian life can feel like it’s getting busier and more stressful to manage, with many families feeling like there’s not enough time in the day. It’s not surprising to hear that 97% of parents prefer meals where their family can laugh, connect, tell stories and share food so let’s forget about complicated cooking techniques and get back to simple and nutritious meals that can kickstart conversation and create community”, said Jocelyn Brewer, Australian psychologist and cyber-psychology researcher.
So, what can we do as parents?
“Figuring out what to eat is often the hardest part of the cooking process. Just over half of Australian parents say Mexican is the food that is the most likely to get their families to a table to eat together so rituals like Taco Tuesdays not only save precious decision-making energy but also offer a fun and relaxed meal that everyone in the family can help to prepare and share,” says Cameron Hardacre, Senior Marketing Manager Old El Paso™.
“Australian families, whether they live in regional or metro areas, with Millennial, Gen X or Boomer parents, all want to bond and see dinnertime conversation as the perfect avenue for this. Our study shows the ideal ingredients for mealtime conversation can be as simple as a delicious, fun and informal meal that gets everyone racing to the table,” Hardacre continued.
Top tips to boost banter at dinner time:
1. Ritualise special, family dinners: Focus on making special dinners part of your family’s weekly ritual. For example, Taco Tuesdays! Providing a fun, themed dinner weekly (or multiple times during the week) will not only help get children to the dinner in the first place, but start to build dinner routines back into your family’s household.
2. Create shared meals: Creating meals that your family can share and customise, helps to create an informal atmosphere where conversation thrives. More often than not, kids love to help out at dinner time. Creating something you can all share will help foster connection, and will also be perfect for those fussy eaters!
3. Add colour and life: Try boosting the colour and texture of your meals. Meals that are vibrant and extremely flavoursome not only help to create curious eaters, but also helps to foster conversation. Try discussing the different taste and textures of the food with your family. Add soft and hard taco shells in the mix, as well as fresh, vibrant produce. Don’t forget the sauce and jalapeños!
4. Create family games and activities: Devise your own games and conversation cues with your family. Things that feel special and unique, will help create continuity and connectivity at dinnertime.
What do you do to connect with your family over dinner? Do you have any rituals, tips or tricks for better table-talk? Tell us in the comment below.
 Breaking Bad: The Functions of Social Eating, R.I.M Dunbar, University of Oxford (2017)