The research and intuition allows us to validate the benefits for eating in groups of people we love, which promotes healthier and more mindful eating behaviors. However, I've been looking into some benefits of specifically outdoor food gatherings. I've been finding some neat things.
- Food outside tastes better. No, seriously. Have you ever been camping, on a river trip, or even just in a park for a simple picnic and wondered why the food just tastes so much better than usual? Well, it's because it does! Research is showing that due to the heightened experience of other senses while outside, the sense of taste is not exempt. The release of dopamine to the brain from your taste buds is actually firing both more quickly and overall more connections. Neat
- Eating with people reduces anxiety. Eating with people you love creates a feeling of euphoria and contentment that allows the parasympathetic nervous system to take charge, as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system - (the fight or flight pathway, which we are in most of the time. This causes us anxiety, depression, and overall just stresses us out). Taking a regular task like eating and putting it outside with people we love puts our brain at ease and allows us to be present. Much like meditation or yoga does. Neat.
- Speaking of the present moment....Eating outdoors makes us eat more mindfully. Yep, it's true. Because we are outside and changing our regular environment, we take notice of the food and the experience more acutely, thus listening to our hunger/full signals a bit better. The food tastes better, so maybe we think we'll over eat? Research says nope, not the case. We are more satiated and we consume less calories when eating outside in a group.
- It makes me happy. Yeah, this one is less scientifically based, but it's true. When I'm having a cookout, or a simple outdoor meal, I just feel more content and happy with my life. It reminds me why we gather with people we love and how great food is at creating an excuse to do it.
So, good ahead, try it. Make a delicious, heart-warming and healthy meal and simply take it outdoors. You won't regret it. Unless you sit near an ant pile....that will buzz kill the good vibes e'ry time.