A fondue meal, such as this one in Switzerland, is a great example of adopting the European approach of making meals into an event.

It’s past your normal lunch hour at work and you haven’t eaten yet. You’re completely swamped with tasks to accomplish, and the closest restaurant to your workplace is the local McDonald’s, or maybe if you’re lucky, a Panera Bread.

You’re at home on the weekend with an empty refrigerator. There’s a fantastic sit-down restaurant close by that you’ve been meaning to visit, but haven’t found the time. So again, you settle for the quick meal that goes hand in hand with a fast food joint. And you’re pretty sure you eat it faster than it took the cooks to make it.

Sound familiar?

In America, where 9-to-5 jobs are the norm for many women throughout the weekdays and work often creeps its way into the weekend, it’s easy to see meals as a grab-and-go occasion. These same women would probably be surprised if they went to Europe – where meals are considered an event, and a time to linger. I know I was.

Fodor’s Travel Guides tells us that when in a country like Italy, customers at restaurants should always specifically ask for the check. Even if the patrons have cleaned their plates, a waiter would consider it rude to bring the bill before requested. As someone who has been to Italy, I can say this is absolutely true. I distinctly remember a meal with friends in Florence at a pizzeria, when we tried to flag down our waiter. We would’ve loved to stay longer, but we had an art tour to get to. When we finally got our waiter’s attention, he seemed surprised and almost sad that we had to leave our meal.

It is sad that Americans feel so rushed, especially at the work place, to inhale a mediocre sandwich before moving on to the next task, especially since eating too quickly has been linked to possibly causing unhealthy weight gain. According to Psych Central, researchers in Japan have estimated that the combination of eating quickly and eating until full more than triples the risk of being overweight.

That’s a big problem for us American women, who are constantly on the go.

It might be easy to say that a European approach would be a good one for healthier eating – lingering over a meal and making it an event. But how can American women apply this approach to their nutritional planning, especially during the week? It’s unlikely that many of us have the luxury to take extended lunch breaks every day.

Though we might not have control over how much time we have to leave the office, we can protect our health by planning ahead before we leave home. Healthy eating plans typically emphasize lean meats and eggs. But just because food is healthy doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Experiment by tossing healthy protein with other foods before packaging it for work. Vegetables are your friends here. A little seasoning or spice can also make blander foods more exciting to eat. It helps to pace yourself while eating, so you aren’t tempted to step toward that vending machine later. Pacing yourself might also help you enjoy the food more, too!

During the weekends, steal away to a sit-down restaurant that will let you interact with your company and linger and enjoy your food with them. A fondue restaurant is a wonderful example. Close by my house in Northwest Indiana is a European style restaurant called Café Fondue. Jae Ford, the woman who established the restaurant in 1997, said in an interview with the Northwest Indiana Times that fondue provides a convivial atmosphere. “When you’re cooking your own food, you have to talk (and have fun). You can’t just eat and go,” Ford said.

However, if European style restaurants aren’t an option where you live, turning meals into events could be applied to sharing guacamole dip, or watching a Japanese chef cook your food at your table. Whatever type of interactive eating experience is in your local area. Not only could this method be beneficial for your health, it’ll also allow you time of leisure to enjoy with your friends, family, or whoever your lucky guests are.

Who knows? You might even have to specifically request your check.

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  • Lexy Cruz

    I think this is true in Hispanic cultures as well. Eating is a sit-down all-out extravaganza. Really liked the article!