Episode 61: Fathers’ Involvement in Mealtimes with Dr. Amar Laila

In this week’s episode, we are joined by Dr. Amar Laila, a post-doctoral fellow with the EAT-Lancet 2.0 Commission and the Guelph Family Health Study. Dr. Laila shares insights on the role of fathers in mealtimes, discussing their influence on children’s development, their unique contributions to family dynamics, and offering strategies for fathers to become more actively involved. Tune in for an engaging discussion filled with practical tips for enhancing family mealtime experiences.


Marciane Any 0:04 

Hello. Welcome to The Healthy Habits, Happy Homes podcast hosted by the Guelph Family Health Study.


Tamara Petresin  0:14 

If you’re interested in the most recent research and helpful tips for healthy, balanced living for you and your family, then this podcast is for you. In each episode, we will bring you topics that are important to your growing family and guests who will share their expertise and experience with you.


Marciane Any  0:30 

Our quick tips will help your family build healthy habits for a happy home


Welcome back to The Healthy Habits Happy Homes Podcast. I’m Marciane.

And, today ,we’re excited to have a returning guest, Dr. Amar Laila, join us. Dr. Amar is a postdoctoral fellow with the Eat Lancet 2.0 Commission, and the Guelph Family Health Study, whose research interests are in improving food systems, sustainability and justice, especially from a family point of view, including promoting healthy sustainable eating. He is here today to talk to us about his research on father’s involvement during meal times. Welcome aboard Amar.


Dr. Amar Laila  1:22 

Thank you. I’m glad to be back now as Doctor.  Not as… I think I was a PhD candidate at the time of the first one. So, thank you for having me. I’m excited.


Marciane Any  1:32 

No worries. Well, to get started, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your current role and how your education and experiences led you to where you are now.


Dr. Amar Laila  1:44 

Sure, I started my undergraduate in nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences at the University of Guelph. I was always interested in biology and chemistry, and so that felt like the most appropriate thing to do, which was just do nutrition, because it bridges both at the same time. But, towards the end of my undergrad I got introduced to knowledge translation and this whole idea of behaviour change and bringing in psychology which led me to do a Master’s at the University of Guelph, where we focused on dairy and dairy alternatives and purchasing habits of families around that. So, even more psychology and understanding behaviour. And, later I did a PhD again at the University of Guelph with the Guelph Family Health Study. That one was more general focused on food literacy and food waste, where obviously, I had to learn a bit about food systems and how our food systems shape our eating habits, shape our purchasing habits, and how we also can shape our food systems, which later on led me to this postdoctoral position where we’re focused on food systems sustainability and justice and how we can transform food systems so that we reach a sustainable food system that is also just for everyone in the world, where  we can feed 10 billion people, by 2050, a healthy sustainable diet.


Tamara Petresin  3:16 

That’s amazing. Thank you so much for sharing a bit about your journey, Amar. You certainly have a wealth of knowledge and experiences. So, we’re really excited to have you on the podcast today, and, especially focusing today on fathers and mealtimes. So, with that, just to kind of get us started on the podcast today, what does father’s involvement during mealtime look like in Canada right now?


Dr. Amar Laila  3:39 

Yeah, I guess I should talk a bit more about what my PhD was specifically because it pertains to this podcast today. So, my PhD looked at food literacy and food waste in families specifically. And, we made sure to include fathers in all of the assessment and in one of the interventions that we did, but for today, we’re focused on just the research that looked at father’s involvement. And, so, within Canada, I had to look up the stats comparing 1976 to 2015, which I thought were really interesting. Unfortunately, not all fathers are involved in meal planning or meal preparing and shopping in households. This tells us that gender roles do persist still. But, there have been improvements comparing, you know, those years. So, for example, back then, about 51% of fathers said they participated in household work. So, in general, just anything in the household, whereas in 2015, it was 76%. So, we do see a jump in an improvement in the number of fathers involved in housework. Now, when we talk about meal preparing, it’s only about 35% of fathers in Canada that report participating in meal preparing in some capacity. And, again, this is 2015, so that’s where the latest data is. And, then 41% said they’re involved have been shopping in some capacity. Now, I can talk about Guelph specifically, because I was, you know, I was the PhD student doing the work here and looking at the stats of the Guelph Family Health Study. And, I’d say the Guelph Family Health Study families are doing probably better than that. So, almost all fathers reported that they are involved in some capacity. But, only about 40% said they’re involved in either grocery shopping, or meal-preparing, 50% or more of the time. So, they’re not, like, 100% involved in everything, but it’s almost 50% of fathers are saying that they are involved in a lot of the cooking, grocery shopping, which I think is a very positive sign of improvements in, you know, the division of labour, and health in the household. So, I would say Canada is doing pretty well. But, I will say that, you know, part of my PhD was speaking with mothers and asking them, you know, how they could cook more at home and their answers were almost always that, you know, their partners and their older children could help a bit more, you know, they could be, they could shoulder a bit of that burden. So, I would say we’re doing okay; we could do better.


Marciane Any  6:11 

Thank you so much, Amar, for sharing all of that. I was actually very curious to know, like, what the statistics were. So, it’s just encouraging to see the stats show father’s involvement has improved, like, within the household over the years, and even is at a good place with mealtime involvement, especially with our GFHS families. That’s really encouraging to hear. And, so, in later questions, we’ll talk about how to get more fathers involved. But, it’s just good to know where we are now. And, then where we want to be in the future. With that, is there a lot of research happening looking at father’s role/involvement in different family activities?


Dr. Amar Laila  6:55 

So, this is where, I don’t want to be too cynical in relaying what the field of nutrition has done as far as father involvement goes, because it really is not that much. Or, at least compared to the research done on mothers. As far as family activities, in general, there has been a lot of research about kids with involved fathers and engaged fathers within a family context, you know, do better at school, and, you know, emotional regulation, and all those kinds of things. But, when it comes to nutrition, there really isn’t that much research, unfortunately. Now, there has been a bit more attention given recently, I would say, over the past, like, decade or so. So, there’s definitely more and more research being done. But um, yeah, it’s not that much. And, we are one of the few researchers who involve both mothers and fathers.


Tamara Petresin  7:47 

And, do you have any ideas on why that is Amar? Anything that you, you know, have found throughout your research?


Dr. Amar Laila  7:54 

Yeah, so, it was, I would say early on, partly maybe researcher bias thinking, “Okay, the mothers are the dietary gatekeeper, so we should just ask her what her child’s diet looks like, what meal involvement looks like, what, you know, these, what these nutrition outcomes look like for her children,” rather than go to the father, who researchers thought is, one, unengaged, and, two, just wouldn’t know. But, with how times have changed, and, you know, the more egalitarian division of labour that we see now, in households, fathers do play a role. And, researchers have identified that they do actually get involved in meal preparation and grocery shopping. And, that seems to have an impact on children outcomes and healthy eating. Yeah, like, it’s just a matter of researchers wanting the best source of data from a family, but then realizing that, “Okay, like, fathers aren’t just sitting there doing nothing.” I mean, they do play a very important role that needs to be investigated. They do have a very big impact. Overall, like, as I talked earlier, like, just being involved within the family, it seems to be better for the kids and their emotional regulation. So clearly, something smaller, like, you know, dinner time, they could also play a role.


Marciane Any  9:21 

That is so true. And, it’s just interesting. I feel like we’ve had some conversations where we just realized there’s a lot of introspection that needs to be done to, like, progress. And, I think, even as researchers really evaluating, like, where is our positionality? Like, where are the places we could have bias even within that, it’s, like, you know, households, families look so different nowadays. And, also there is, like, differences in gender roles and culture and things like that, and fathers are becoming more involved and want to be more involved. So, our research should, you know, reflect that and look into: what is the father’s perspective? And what are their thoughts, as well. So I’m glad that you brought that to our attention, just, like, why maybe this isn’t happening as much. So, how can this be improved? Like, what can we do better?


Dr. Amar Laila  10:18 

So, first of all, researchers could do better in simply thinking of fathers. And, I mean, here, we’re only talking about two-parent households, you know, two different-sex parent households. And, obviously, there are different types of families where they might have other caregivers, like grandparents and stuff, which, also, I think, should, we should pay attention to. But, for today’s topic, we’re only focusing on just families with a mother and a father. I just think researchers should do better to begin with. I don’t want to put the whole pressure on fathers and not, “Oh, they’re not involved.” No, it’s not like that. It’s like, what are the researchers doing to involve fathers? Like, is your research question, as a researcher, does it include fathers? Are you thinking of fathers when you’re thinking of the family, so, even when it comes to, like, research questions, which aren’t related to my PhD thesis, but breastfeeding, for example, fathers do somehow play, from the little research that I saw, they do somehow play a role in supporting the mother and in her role as a, you know, as a mother of an infant, at that point. So, I just think researchers should do better to ask the right questions when it comes to families. Now, there has been some research asking fathers why they’re not involved. And, a lot of the time fathers, when they see a flyer that says, you know, we’re looking for parents to do research, a lot of the fathers think, “Oh, this, this pertains to the mother, it doesn’t pertain to me.” Because, you know, the word “parent” alone just doesn’t convey to them that the researchers are interested in both mother and father. So, researchers could do better in, just, you know, including in the flyer, that we’re looking for mothers and fathers, rather than just parents in general. It’s clear that fathers do want to participate in research. It’s clear that they want to be involved within families and be more engaged in feeding, in raising the kids. So, we, as researchers should do better to make sure they’re getting the right message from us. And, again, back to, you know, the research that looked at why fathers might not be involved, fathers seem to want to know what the benefit to their family is. I’m not talking about monetary benefit, like a gift card you get, what is this research going to mean for my family? Like, how does this pertain to, for example, my child’s healthy eating, so, they want to see that. It’s, to me, it’s more on the researchers than on the fathers to include more fathers and do more father research.


Tamara Petresin  12:52 

Yeah, definitely, that’s actually — you, bring up a lot of very interesting points. And it would definitely be great to see more research, kind of, reflect the different types of families that we have, as well, like same sex couples, and, you know, even multi-generational households, as well, because I think there’s, like, a wealth of information that we can gather from that, as well. And, hopefully, too, as we see, you know, numbers go up in terms of father’s involvement, as you, kind of, shared with us in the beginning of the podcast here. Hopefully, some of those changes will be reflected, too, and we’ll be able to see them more, more reflected in the research, as well. And, I agree with you, too, yeah, it’s definitely fathers — it seems, like, from the research anyway, fathers want to be involved and  it’s on the researchers to figure out a way to engage them in a way that best suits their needs. So, how does the father’s engagement during mealtimes influence a child’s emotional and/or physical development? And, are there specific behaviours or actions from fathers that are especially impactful?


Dr. Amar Laila  13:47 

The father’s role during meal time seems to be similar to the mothers, where he’s a role model; he encourages healthy eating, you know, and that seems to increase the healthy eating in the child, as well. And, you know, if we were to think about what that would mean, in the future, if the child is developing healthy eating habits, and, again, I’m just basing this off of hypothesizing what would happen, there’s not much longitudinal research on father involvement, unfortunately, but anything we can do to get the child to develop healthy eating habits would have great influence on later life, and being able to eat healthy in later in life. So, it’s really important that fathers are engaged at mealtime right away. And, what I mean by that is what we call responsive feeding. So, responsive feeding is doing things like, just being a role model, eating the healthy food that you want your child to eat, encouraging them to eat, but also not using food as a reward or as a punishment. So, you know, nothing like:  eat the broccoli so that you get a sweet after, or withholding sweets as punishment. Fathers, also, from the research tend, to pressure children to eat. So, that is something that is associated with worse eating outcomes. And, so, I would encourage that fathers don’t do that.  Like, what you should be doing is just more responding to the child, so, if the child is full, then they are full. There’s no need to have them finish the plate or any of those pressure type of mealtime engagement. As far as emotional development, I honestly can’t say much about it. But, in general, as I said early in the podcast, when fathers are more engaged in families, in general, children tend to do better emotionally. So, you know, less delinquency, less behavioural problems, and hopefully, more healthy eating.


Marciane Any  15:49 

Thank you for sharing that. I think, you know, we’ve been discussing just with parents in general, when they’re more engaged, it has better outcomes for their children. So, to hear that, again, with, you know, fathers, that’s, like, “Of course, that makes sense.” The more engaged, and even modelling behaviours, I think, to not using food as a reward or punishment is, it’s a big one. And, I think, I really have to give a lot of props to my father, like, he was the king of doing a lot of activities with us. Like rewards for things. So, it was, like, “Okay, if you did something, let’s go to the park, or let’s do your favourite activity,” or we really loved soccer, and there was a time we didn’t get to do that as consistently as before. So it was, like, “Okay, let’s go do that.” So, he just found different ways to do that. He was also a person who knows how to use his right and left brain very well. So, he was, like, a computer science nerd who can, like, build a computer from scratch, but, also had an artsy side and can, like, build clay models and draw, so, he just always found activities. So, as I’m even thinking of parents who used other things for rewards, my dad came to mind. So, that was just really cool. And, it brought forth a memory.


Dr. Amar Laila  17:15 

Oh, yeah, no, absolutely, Marciane. So, that’s the better way of encouraging healthy eating, rather than building an unhealthy relationship, unintentionally. I mean, every parent means well, when they’re doing the things that they do, I’m not saying they’re not, you know, there’s an ill will behind it. Everyone means well, it’s just, you know,  when you use food as a reward or punishment, you’re building an unhealthy relationship with food, so that, you know, there’s this building of unhealthy food, like, a sweet, for example, is something more than just the sweet. And, I’m only doing this really annoying thing, which is eating my broccoli, so that I get this reward. It just doesn’t build the right relationship, as, you know, nutrition scientists we would like to see.


Marciane Any  18:00 

So true. Can you share some insights into the unique contributions that fathers make during mealtime, and how these interactions differ from those of other family members?


Dr. Amar Laila  18:14 

Yeah, so every family is different. Some families, the father might be more involved than other families. He might have more time to even help the mother in the cooking. So, overall, I would say the  father’s contribution within a family, meal setting, or just preparing food, in general, in the household, is whatever role he and his partner communicates with each other to do. So, if he’s in charge of the grocery shopping, that’s his contribution. And, there needs to be that communication between partners. So, I won’t say there’s, like, a specifically unique contribution that fathers make, generally speaking, they are just there to shoulder some of the burden that mothers tend to shoulder all of, or most of. In most families, unfortunately, they’re simply supporters. Now, in families where fathers are more engaged, and its 50/50, that’s when we see the best outcomes. And, that’s when, I think, fathers not necessarily have a unique contribution, but, the contribution is, you know, being another role model in the household modelling the fact that, you know, this is a 50/50 partnership, modelling healthy eating, modelling, you know, cooking and all those things that children tend to see and want to do, as well, and be involved in. And, that will, later in life, hopefully, build enough interest in cooking and healthy eating that it persists into adulthood.


Tamara Petresin  19:49 

Definitely, and I know, Amar, that you did some work in developing a parental food-skills model, where you touched on father’s unique role in food provision, specifically with regard to, like, the planning and adjust meals. So, I was just curious if you can, maybe, touch on that a bit more?


Dr. Amar Laila  20:03 

Yeah, so that was just the cross-sectional study we did looking at how food skills are associated with children’s diet quality and dinner food provision. So, what we saw was that father’s food skills in general, are not associated, neither are mothers, they’re not associated with children’s diet quality, per se. But, what we saw was specifically father’s ability to plan and adjust meals is associated with a better score on this measure of dinner helpfulness. So, you know, do you put a green salad at dinner? Do you offer milk? Those kinds of things at dinner, so, that gets scored. And, we saw there was an association between, specifically planning and adjusting of the fathers, not the mothers, and that measure. What that tells us is if  fathers are more involved in the higher-order food skills, so the planning and adjusting meals, you know, families seem to do better. So, I won’t say that, if we make father’s plan and adjust meals, you know, dinners will suddenly be healthier. I think because this is a cross-sectional study, we’re interpreting it as, in families that have fathers with these higher-order food skills of planning and adjusting meals, perhaps they’re more involved within family meals, and, so, we see these better outcomes dinner.


Tamara Petresin  21:31 

Yeah, thank you for expanding on that, too. It’s always nice when we get an opportunity on the podcast, too, to actually talk about research that’s from the Guelph Family Health Study. So, it’s always cool, we get that opportunity to highlight that.


Marciane Any  21:41 

I was wondering, I had a question. In preparing meals with my dad, at least, I’ll share another personal story. I remember it, it felt like a treat. It felt like, like fun. I, at least, remember that, like, I guess researcher bias, it can, kind of, seem like the moms will do things, at least my lived experience was that, “Yes, my mom did tend to prep the meals and be concerned about that, do more of the food, shopping, things like that.” But, my father cooked, as well. And, when he cooked, it was so much fun. Like, it was music blasting, we were chopping up the vegetables and everything, and talking about sports and, just, it felt different, you know, not better or worse than with mom, but different. And, it was really cool. So, I was just wondering, I didn’t know if in your research and communicating with the families, if there was any distinctions or any unique stories or differences that families or children shared about making meals with dad versus making meals with another parent?


Dr. Amar Laila  22:54 

Yeah, I can’t say yes to that question. We never really got in that deeply when it came to our questions that we asked the parents. But, that is such an interesting question to ask, like: “How does meal preparation, in families that have both parents who prepare meals,  how do the children perceive that?” That will be such an interesting research question. And, I’m hoping we get to answer that in the near future. Because, you know, I’m really curious how they perceive it. Like, for my family, just as a personal story, when my dad cooked, which was rare, he left the kitchen in a mess, so, we had to clean it up. So, whereas, you know, my mom kind of involved this here and there in the cooking and, yeah, so, I would say that’s not something I can answer right now. But, I’m hoping in the future, we do get someone, like, a master’s student or a PhD student to answer that question, because it would be really interesting to see. And, it would be also interesting to see, so, you know, we’re seeing lots of families with stay-at-home fathers, like, how does that look different from stay-at-home moms, for example, as far as you know, the perception of the parent at home, versus, you know, what was the perception of the children, as well towards what does meal preparation look like? In both families? That would be such an interesting research question.


Marciane Any  24:14 

For sure. That would.


Tamara Petresin  24:15 

I love it. All these ideas for future research questions, things to explore. In your research, have you identified any challenges or obstacles that fathers commonly face when they’re trying to be actively involved in mealtimes?


Dr. Amar Laila  24:29 

Yes. So, we did a focus group study where we spoke with both mothers and fathers. It was very clear to me that the fathers really want to be involved. But, sometimes, they just don’t know how and they don’t want to add that burden on their partner that,  “Okay, what do you want from me?” And, so, now the mother has to almost delegate and, like, project manage, which, just, sometimes adds burden on the mother. So, you know, some fathers, to them, you know, they already know because they’ve communicated, maybe, with their partner, and they already know their role in the kitchen. Let’s say if the if they always help in the cooking, but, for some fathers, they just don’t know how. Another thing that I found really interesting and this isn’t from the  Guelph Family Health Study, this was just a study I read, I remember. They asked, you know, the mothers how, you know, whether they would like their partner to be involved? Some of them, I remember, said, they don’t want the partner involved. Because, you know, the father, one, doesn’t know the food skills that she knows, and, two, genuinely encourages, like, meat intake, whereas she wants to feed the family healthy food. So, once again, back to my idea of communicating and being on the same page when it comes to these things is really important. So, that you, you get over these challenges or any challenges. And, so that, you know, mealtime becomes less stressful rather than more stressful, because, you know, the father is another adult in the household who can help and shoulder, at least shoulder some of the burden. Now, ideally, it would be 50/50, but that might not be as realistic. It’s more about just finding where the father can help in a way that does, in fact, help rather than add burden and stress, because they really, really do want to be involved. And, the mothers want to involve them, as well. Sometimes, the mothers also don’t know how. And, so, again, once again, just the communication is really, really important between parents so that they can become the role models in the kitchen.


Tamara Petresin  26:30 

Yeah, for sure. And, it is very interesting, too. I mean, I can definitely understand, you know, wanting, of course, wanting to be involved, but at the same time, not wanting to make things more difficult for your partner, and, kind of, adding on to that mental load. Because, sometimes, you know, if you are the person that’s taking control more with meals, and the meal times and stuff, it can also be like a lot of mental load to have to ask your partner to help, as well. So, it’s kind of important, I think, in general, just for families to find their own balance of what works best for them.


Dr. Amar Laila  27:01 

Exactly, yeah. And I’m someone who doesn’t like having someone help them in the kitchen. So, for some mothers, I bet that’s the case, as well. So you know, finding what the father could do. For example, just play with the kids, keep them out of the kitchen while I finish this meal, could just be, like, another way where the father is being supportive. It doesn’t need to be in the kitchen, per se, it can be something like that, so, just finding where the father could shoulder that burden is really key.


Marciane Any  27:28 

Very true. Not to call out my partner, but he might listen to this, he might not. But, definitely, that has been a conversation for the future. You know, he has certain foods skills now. And, there’s definitely more to learn. So, it’s like learning it now when it’s just him and I and then when there are children and things like that, there isn’t that mental load, there isn’t that, “Oh, you’ve never made this or that or this,” like, now let’s learn it. So, it’s good to have those conversations, like, as soon as possible, hopefully, hopefully, to lessen the burden for both. And you’re right. It’s, like, the fathers want to be more involved. And, the moms do want to involve them. But, there’s, there’s so much going on a day-to-day I feel, like, throughout so many episodes, we’ve talked about all of the burden that is put on parents, and, so if there’s any way to lessen the load to make things easier, it would help. And, so, definitely communicating and coming up with the with a team plan in this area is really helpful.


Tamara Petresin  28:40 

Yeah, definitely Marciane, and I can totally relate to what you said, as well, as being the one that tends to take the reins in the kitchen. Yeah, it’s important to have those conversations and to, kind of, set the stage for the future as well. But, I love what Amar, your suggestion to about, like, even if it’s not related to the kitchen or necessarily to mealtime, but, like, getting the kids ready for mealtime, like, getting them, you know, playing with them beforehand. Like, I think that’s a really, really good point there, too. It doesn’t necessarily have to be food-skills involved, or in the kitchen, or even directly with food. But, just, like, kind of getting them prepared for mealtime, as well, is a really big task for a lot of parents and families as well as even just making it to mealtime and getting to meal time. So, with that, too, are there any strategies that fathers can use to overcome these barriers? I know we just, kind of, briefly talked about one with, like, playing with the kids and stuff and getting them ready to mealtime. But, is there anything else?


Dr. Amar Laila  29:31 

It’s funny, Marciane, you mentioned, you know the lower food skills. So, on average, I’m not saying every man and every woman is like this, but, on average in Canada, men tend to have lower food skills than women and we see that in families, as well. So, one thing that the fathers could do is learn to cook more and get those food skills at a level where they can help and, you know, they can shoulder the burden in the kitchen. But, also, yeah, finding something outside of the kitchen if need be, that they can do would also be really important. So, it doesn’t need to be only in the kitchen, it can also be just, you know, the grocery shopping that they do it can be, can be any role that they see with their partner as something that would lessen the burden on whoever is in charge of, whoever is mainly in charge of the cooking. But, also, I do want to say it’s really hard for families, because in speaking with some of the families, you know, usually, for some mothers, they said that their partner gets back home really late because their work, his work is just like that. So, it’s really hard to —  you have to have dinner ready while the kids are running around. But, there’s no father to help with the kids, for example, because he’s at work still or commuting back or anything like that. So, I do want to say, it’s really hard for families. And, so yeah, anything that could be done to lessen that burden would be really important.


Marciane Any 31:00

Thanks for sharing all that. It’s so true. There’s a bit of creativity there. And, again, just open communication and conversations that keeps coming up in the  podcast.  I wonder if that’s a trend? You know, having those talks, because there are some things to do. I know for me, again, I don’t have children, but hoping to one day, but even now, just with a small household of two, there will be times when my partner is like, “How can I help? How can I do this?” And, because I’m so laser-focused, it’s like, “Well, if you can’t do what I’m doing, then you can’t do anything.” And, it’s, like, no, that’s not true. There’s other things; it could be the grocery shopping or getting the kids ready, or, or getting the table set or, or planning, like, you know, if there is, like, “Oh, we should have this meal one day,” and a few days, it’s like, “Okay, make a shopping list, or like pull up a recipe.” Like, there’s a division of labour there that can happen. And, I think it’s just for one person, whoever is more in charge of, like, the food prep and all that thinking openly and allowing for creativity and being like, “Actually, no, there is something that they can do.” And, then the other person being open to those other tasks. And, even helping, like, the person who usually does do the meal prep, think through that. Especially, if it’s hard to think through it in the moment. So, yeah, thank you for sharing all of that.


Dr. Amar Laila  32:29 

Yeah, just on point of creativity, finding the time to do these things. And, for example, if they’re busy all, for, you know, because of work every weekday, like, just make it a family activity on a weekend where both parents are there, just anything to, you know, it doesn’t need to be once every, every day. It doesn’t need to be an everyday thing. It can be, like, once a week, once every two weeks, just anything to help the children see that, “Oh, that both parents are cooking,” and we’re making, you know, a healthy meal or, you know, helping the children learn something from the kitchen. 


Marciane Any  33:04 

Absolutely. Well, to close out the podcast, we like to give parents three take-home tips. So, what are three, take-home tips on how fathers can engage more effectively in mealtimes that you can share with the audience?


Dr. Amar Liala 33:49 

Yeah, so I think the theme of this whole podcast was communication between partners. Yeah, I think that’s the first and probably the most important tip I would say is just communicating and finding how the father could be more involved — just finding out why they’re not even more involved to begin with. Because, you know, mothers might be surprised that their partner wants to be involved just doesn’t know how or is afraid of adding burden, like, we talked about. So, just communicating and seeing why or why not, you know, they want to be involved and see if, you know, his food skills are maybe not sufficient. Maybe you can take a cooking class together, just make it a fun date, as a couple, just go to a cooking class together, get those food skills up to par so that he can help, as well. The other tip I would say, is planning meals so that maybe one meal every week or every two weeks is just a family meal where everyone is involved in the kitchen, in some capacity, like, I don’t know, help, if it’s a really small child, just help them up and you know, stir something, or if it’s baking, even something simple for the whole family to do together would be really important, as well. That way, again, being that role model, it’s a family activity. So, just getting that closeness together. That’s the whole thing about food, it’s more than just nutrients that we eat, there’s so much culture around food that we would love to see more families think of food that way and as an opportunity to not only teach but also get close as a family. And, the last one, and I think this is also really important, is, you know, the remove the pressure from it. Like, I don’t want to, I don’t want to stress the listeners by thinking they have to, you know, involve three children of various ages and especially if the children don’t want to be involved. Sometimes just simply being a role model can get them interested in joining in on the fun of cooking and learning. And, once again, like, simple things like the father just playing with the kids while the on the mother cooks is fine, like, just anything that would you know, decrease the stress of cooking would be really important. So, you know, raising a family is hard. So, you know, keep the expectations low and just do the best that you can. So, again, once every two weeks, four weeks, on holidays, only you do a family meal, no problem, just whenever it can be done. I would recommend that they do but it’s really important that —  and all the parents obviously want to do something it’s just yeah like this. Life is so stressful and I’m not a father myself. But, in speaking with some of the parents of, like, The Guelph Family Health Study, it was very clear how stressed everyone is and how even the stress of making sure every meal is healthy, sometimes, it’s too much, and, so, they order takeout. And, that is also fine. It’s just really about finding a way to eat healthy most of the time and get the kids involved, because that’s also healthy for both the kid and the family as a whole. This should be a fun thing. It shouldn’t be stressful. And, that’s, I think, where communication is really key and keeping it fun rather than a stressful thing that now needs to be achieved. Like, one more “to do” thing on the schedule or on the agenda.


Tamara Petresin  36:47 

Yeah, definitely. It’s all about the balance, for sure. And, I love what you said about food being more than the nutrients and, kind of, taking the pressure away from it, as well. It’s really is just about being together and having fun with it. And, that will look very different depending on the family that is doing this. So, thank you so much, Dr. Laila for taking the time to chat with us. You’ve provided us with such helpful information on the importance of fathers in mealtimes.


Dr. Amar Laila 37:15 

Thank you for having me. This was really fun. And, I do want to thank Dr. Jess Haines, my PhD mentor.  I really, really want to give a big thank you to the Guelph Family Health Study family, especially the ones that we spoke with, and I hope they remember who I was. Because, it was just really such a fun experience talking to them and understanding their daily struggles and their daily wins, even. So, big shout outs to them and the Guelph Family Health Study team. And, a big shout out to you, Tamara and Marciane. Thank you for having me.


Marciane Any  37:48 

Oh, we’re so happy to have you.


Tamara Petresin  37:52 

Yeah, we love our Guelph Family Health Study families and the Guelph Family Health Study Team really is a very special one. We’re lucky to be a part of that. And, we we’re so excited to have you here Amar.


Marciane Any  38:02 

We hope our listeners can take away some of these useful tips that you’ve shared, and that they enjoyed this episode. We’ll see you next time.