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Living Well in Yalobusha County

Meal Time Is A Very Important Time For Family


By Pamela Redwine
Nutrition and Food Safety

“Dinner’s Ready!  Come to the table!”

Do you remember your mom hollering that very statement when you were a kid?  Do you remember going to the bathroom and “washing up” then running to the dinner table to take your place?  Although it may seem like no one does this anymore, taking time to eat dinner together as a family is actually increasing.  In fact, in 2005, 58 percent of kids aged 12 to 17 reported that they ate dinner with their families at least five times a week, compared to only 47 percent in 1998, a survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found.  The week of September 16-22, 2007 marks the 12th annual National Eat Dinner Together Week.  So, if you aren’t currently doing this, how about trying to start a new family tradition.

So, what are the benefits of family-meal times?

Better Nutrition – Numerous studies have overwhelmingly pointed to the fact that families who eat together have better overall nutrition.  In turn, this means they also have a lower risk of many diseases and of being overweight or obese.  They are also more likely to take in more healthy nutrients, such as: calcium, fiber, iron, vitamins B6 and B12, vitamins C and E.  Another study also found that they often consumed more fruits and vegetables and fewer snack foods than those who did not.

Kids do better in school, less likely to take drugs – Not only have studies found that kids who eat with their families get better grades and have a more positive attitude about their future, but they also are less likely to get involved with negative behaviors like drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

Automatic “Check-In” Times – One of the most noticed benefits of family dinners is it gives the parents a set time to check in with their kids.  A spokesperson from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse said, that families that do have dinner together often are families whose parents are more involved in what is going on in their kid’s lives.

Help your kids develop language skills – When it comes to family events, family dinners were the most important one in contributing to children’s language development, according to a Harvard Study.  When there is more than one adult at the table, it tends to make talk richer; topics are established by adult interest and can be extremely valuable opportunities for children to learn.

Spend time together as a family- Looking back on their childhoods, many parents will recall their nightly dinner hour, when everyone was expected to sit down at the table.  Many will also recall these times as some of their most cherished memories.  Establishing this routine with your own family will give you time to bond as a family now, and memories to fondly look back on later.

However, believe it or not, there are some risks to eating together as a family.  In order to be successful, family dinners must be enjoyable – for you, for your spouse, for your kids.  If everyone is tense, irritable or unhappy, there won’t be a lot of conversation, bonding or other benefits.

So, in order to ensure that family dinners are beneficial, be careful of what you speak of.  Here are some things you can do:

Use open-ended questions about things they are interested in or things that will get them to talking.

Stay away from the “clean your plate” mentality.  Forcing a child to eat everything on his plate will ignore his body’s cues that he’s full.

Keep the menu simple so that you will have more time to sit down with your family and enjoy it.

The bottom line is, do what works for you – whether that’s cooking extra over the weekend to serve during the week, preparing meals in the morning or eating meals like sandwiches and soups, sometimes—so that you are able to sit down and enjoy the meal too.

 Recipe of the Week

Chicken Broccoli Frittata
1 cup chopped fresh broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon FLEISCHMANN’S Original margarine
In 10-inch nonstick skillet, over medium heat, saute broccoli, chicken, tomato, onion and tarragon in margarine until broccoli is tender-crisp.  Reduce heat to low.  Pour Egg Beaters evenly into skillet over chicken mixture.  Cover; cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until cooked on bottom and almost set on top.  Slide onto serving platter; cut into wedges to serve.

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