The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “back to school”

Grilling as Easy as 1, 2, 3!

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Recipe of the Week

Labor Day is right around the corner and is the second largest grilling day in America. I will be joining that group and will be getting the grill out for what might be one of the last big grilling days before the start of fall.

In my home I like to use a charcoal grill. I find charcoal to be very easy to use and the flavor it adds to meats and vegetables is one of the advantages over propane gas grilling. To set up your grill using my method: add charcoal to the grill (stacked in the shape of a pyramid), add lighter fluid, wait approximately five minutes, add some additional lighter fluid, then light the charcoal. After most of the charcoal has turned white, spread the coals evenly across the bottom of the grill, and place your grill rack on. You are now ready to grill!

My family loves to grill vegetable like yellow potatoes, asparagus, scallions, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini. One of the easiest ways I have found to cook those vegetables is to take a sheet of aluminum foil, add your vegetables and butter, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, then seal the foil closed and place on the grill. In 10 to 15 minutes your veggies will be soft and tender and ready to eat.

Our favorite meat to grill is Korean BBQ chicken – which is easy to make too! Take five pounds of chicken strips and place into a bowl. Add half a jar of Korean BBQ Sauce (my family’s favorite is CJ Korean BBQ Bulgogi marinade), place a lid on the bowl and shake the chicken around until it is evenly coated with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight. Grilling time the next day is 8-15 minutes.

Another benefit to grilling is the extra time spent with my family. My family likes to come out and help me grill or just hang out outside. On nice days we will enjoy our meal together in the backyard.

Have a great Labor Day and enjoy the long weekend with your family!

Damian Roach Technology & Facility Manager and father of one

Damian Roach
Technology & Facility Manager and Father of One

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5 Tips for Adjusting to College Life

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Recipe of the Week

In August comes the time not only for young children and youth to get back to studying, but also those young adults who are attending college. Whether your student is going to college locally or away from home, there are always concerns that parents have. Here are some suggestions to help both you and your student adjust:

  1. Talk WITH them not just at them. Listen to what they have to say and ask open ended questions to get at what they are thinking. “What are you excited about?” “What are you anxious about?”
  2. Share stories of what was good about your school experience. Share stories about what was bad about your school experience – as well as what you would have done differently. Look for stories of other people’s experiences and share those stories – both good and bad. Our kids can learn from the experience of other people and our experiences without actually needing to go through it. Use the news to explain how great and how negative choices impact not only the person making the choice, but their family members, workplace and school.
  3. Remember your job as a parent is to get them ready to go out to be adults. Your actions and words have been the blue print for them to follow. If you feel you have done a great job then try to relax and let them know you will be available with suggestions if they need it. If you feel you have not done a great job, then be honest and help them to find resources in other adults or other services that can fill in the gaps of where you have left off.
  4. Encourage them to find resources on campus – tutoring, career centers, social groups that will help them to navigate the every changing world in which they will function.
  5. Be prepared to see them grow up into the cool adults they will be… Check out the site of the college where they are heading so that you know what resources you can send them to. Become educated yourself.

Take a big breath and try to relax and adjust. This is a big step for you as well as your student.

Linda Hathaway
Director of Curriculum & Education and Mother of Six

What’s in that lunch box? 5 Tips to Make Packed Lunches Healthier

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Recipe of the Week

School is starting and parents all over are gearing up to pack school lunches. I have always had the perception that a lunch packed at home is healthier than what’s being served in the school cafeteria. Turns out that’s wrong – very wrong. A recent study from Tufts University  shows that on the average school day 41% of children are bringing a packed lunch from home, and most of those lunches are far less healthy than the cafeteria food being served. In fact, only 27% of the lunches reviewed met the same nutrition standards the cafeterias have to meet. Instead, most lunches packed at home were an assortment of snack foods and desserts.

I have to make a confession: I never pack my kids a school lunch. They actually love the school cafeteria lunches, which may not say too much about my cooking. My 8 year-old daughter sometimes packs her own lunch, but before it goes in her bookbag it has to pass my inspection to ensure it isn’t a lunch made up totally of junk. So from the research article and my own, albeit limited, experience packing school lunches, here are a few tips to make packed lunches healthier:

  1. The study found a big problem was sugary drinks in packed lunches. Pack water or have your child buy milk at school.
  2. Fruits and veggies are also lacking in most homemade lunches. Make a fruit or veggie requirement for each lunch – and work with your child to find fruit and veggies that they will enjoy eating and that won’t end up in the trash at school.
  3. Many homemade lunches lacked a protein-rich entrée item and were mainly carbs and sugar. Even something as simple as a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread is a healthy kid-friendly choice. My kids also love yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and cheese.
  4. Encourage your kids to pack their own lunches. Have a “Healthy Lunch Checklist” they can follow that includes fruits and veggies, a protein, water, etc. I allow one snack or dessert item in the lunch and am clear with my daughter about what I consider a dessert serving – one cookie, not five cookies! Letting kids pack their own lunch makes it more likely that they will eat it and teaches them the valuable skill of how to create a healthy meal for themselves.
  5. Make it a rule that a parent checks the lunch before it goes in the bookbag.

Need ideas for healthy packed lunches? Pinterest comes to the rescue with 100s of healthy school lunch ideas!

Holli-Seabury-2012

Holli Seabury
CEO and Mother of Seven

Tip of the Week: Pantry List

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This Week’s Featured Recipe

Often, there is a point during our week when we hit the, “oops, we forgot to plan something for dinner, but man, we really don’t want to get back in the car and eat out.” For our family, this usually means we are having a family favorite – or a ‘go-to meal,’ as some people call it. For our household, that means: brinner! Breakfast, for dinner. Crazy as it sounds, having an omelet, or pancakes and sausage, with a side of fresh fruit and OJ for dinner brings my kids running to the table like little else. (Why can’t they respond that way in the morning?)

Not only is it quick, but it is also an inexpensive way to get a meal on the table using a number of items you probably already have on hand! If you find your pantry to be empty on a regular basis, may we suggest using a standardized grocery list, like the one from Family Table to check each time before you leave for the store? Holli Seabury, McMillen Center CEO, says “The meals you can make with these items are pretty much endless – everything from a veggie/cheese omelet served with pan fried potatoes and toast, to pasta with a meat sauce, or chicken and stir fry veggies, served over rice.”

Other quick suggestions for dinner when the cupboard seems bare: local fruits and veggies that are in season are very plentiful at garden markets and roadside stands this time of year. Green beans, tomatoes and peaches are especially plentiful right now!

Frances Brooks Casual 2012

Frances Brooks, Director of Operations & Business Development, and mother of two

Tip of the Week: Picky Eaters

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This Week’s Featured Recipe

Got a picky eater on your hands? Does your child eat a limited number of healthy foods? Join the club. What’s a parent to do?

First, for a fresh perspective, let’s change the word “picky” to “selective”. Sounds better already doesn’t it? Babies come in to the world enjoying slightly sweet, totally bland food (called milk). Children’s senses of smell and taste are keen. Different textures are scary. There’s even a DNA factor at play about how intensely a flavor is perceived. Children discern the taste of food differently than their parents.

What can you do? Sit back, relax and don’t take it personally. All children are selective. Child feeding specialist Ellyn Satter suggests we parents, “Be considerate without catering.” That translates into offering healthy foods for the whole family.

When Junior tells you that new dish doesn’t taste good, accept that it might not taste good to him – that’s considerate. But, continue to serve it in your regular mealtime rotation- that’s not catering. Someday (hopefully before he leaves for college), Junior might take a bite! Coaxing, bribing, rewarding and punishing with food will likely cause a bigger problem down the road.

Be consistent with meal and snack times so that your child will know his next meal is just a few hours away. All day grazing is ill-advised and does not help you establish good mealtime habits. At mealtime, offer a food from at least three of the five food groups (milk, protein, grains, vegetables and fruits) and let your child, her appetite and her tastebuds be her guide.

marcia

Marcia Crawford, MS, RDN

Tip of the Week: Top 10 Grocery Shopping Tips

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This Week’s Featured Recipe

Grocery Shopping

Planning is the key to quick, easy and economical grocery shopping.  Check out our ten tips to help make your shopping painless.

1.  Plan meals and snacks a week in advance and write them down.  Create or download a form that makes sense to you. There are phone apps for this as well.

2.  Set aside one-half hour to write it all down; gather your family calendar (and the school’s lunch calendar) to determine who will be eating which meals.  This half-hour will shrink to about 7 minutes in no time as you re-cycle your best days.

3.  Be realistic; if no one likes Brussels Sprouts, don’t plan them into your menus.

4. Check your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards for inventory.  Any foods that need to be used up?  Any foods that no one has any intention of eating?  Plan to use up the odds and ends or donate or discard the “bad” purchases.

5. Don’t hesitate to make planned-overs (they taste so much better than leftovers). That roast chicken on Sunday not only becomes a sandwich on Monday but chicken noodle soup on Tuesday.

6.  There’s great convenience in single serving items for lunches but you are paying more for the package than the food.  Buy a large bag and have one of the kids count out portions into reusable containers.

7. For fresh produce, consider their shelf-life.  Use highly perishable fruits and veggies early in the week and keep those that have a longer shelf life for days 6 and 7.

8. Frozen fruits and vegetables can easily round out that end-of-the-week meal.

9. Make sure you have storage containers and supplies.  Those two pounds of hamburger in the freezer will be harder to use quickly than the 1/2 pound packages you created (and labeled and dated!).

10. Encourage the whole family to participate.  You can educate everyone about budgeting, time management, cooking and, of course, good nutrition. Dole out questions, tasks and responsibilities appropriate for your age child.

We promise, careful planning will make feeding your family a real joy!

marcia

Marcia Crawford, MS, RDN

Tip of the Week: The Research

Week1

This Week’s Featured Recipe

Today is the start of our Family Table 6 Week Challenge! If you haven’t signed up for the Challenge, do it now to get our free mailing with lots of items designed to make family meals easier.

We are all busy, and sometimes it can just seem like too much work to get everyone together at the table. As an overcommitted mom, I have come to look at family meals as preventing problems which, if they happened, could take up a whole lot of my time than cooking does, and be devastating to my family. The research is overwhelming when it comes to the benefits of family meals to our kids. Children who eat at least 3 meals a week with their families have better communication skills; get better grades; are less likely to bully other youth; are less likely to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco; and less likely to have a teen pregnancy. These are all benefits we want our children to have, and it almost seems too good to be true that by just eating together we could have these benefits. I think this school year I am going to tell my 9th grader that doing poorly in math is just not an option for him because he eats dinner with his family!

These benefits to our children come about from the family connectedness meals create. Last week, a large study about teens and dating violence was released. Before conducting his study, the researcher anticipated that family bonds and support would help prevent both delinquency and dating violence. However, the researcher found family connectedness turned out to be far more important than anticipated, “I was a little surprised… We thought it would be helpful, but it turned out to be very helpful in decreasing all forms of violence we measured, and all forms of delinquency.”

If you would like to read more about the research on the benefits of family meals, click here.

Holli-Seabury-2012

Holli Seabury, CEO, wife and mom of 7

Tip of the Week: A New School Year

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This Week’s Featured Recipe

Judging by the amount of parents I saw this past weekend, a lot of us were out buying back-to-school supplies. Every year at this time, as I pack bookbags with new pencils and yet another ruler (what happens to the previous year’s ruler?) I pledge to begin the school year as Mom of the Year. I vow to send my kids to school with healthy lunches, make sure homework is done properly and put neatly in the bookbags, and to put a delicious home cooked dinner on the table every night so my family can eat together and share the exciting news of the day. By October, this has usually disintegrated into trying to find something quasi-edible they can take for lunch and realizing I never checked the homework as they run out the door late for the bus (again).

This school year, I am still holding out hope of getting dinner on the table, at least most nights. I recently received an email from a friend on this subject. He sent me a link to Michael Pollan’s latest book about cooking. Pollan makes the interesting observation in his latest book, Cooked, that home-cooked food is generally healthier because it’s just too difficult and messy to cook unhealthy food, like french fries, at home. And, if we are cooking what we eat, we won’t eat as many desserts because it will be too much work to make them. I don’t know about you, but I will skip the ice cream before I churn my own!

Often though, we tend to fall into the habit of using too many processed foods in our home cooking. The problem with these convenience foods like boxed macaroni and cheese, veggies with pre-made sauces, and pre-made mashed potatoes, is that they just aren’t healthy because of all the chemicals and sodium. Do you want ideas for how to get an easy, healthy meal on the table? Watch our video How to Get a Meal on the Table Faster than You Can Go Through the Drive-Thru. If you happened to be in England recently, you might have seen this video on the telly there; it’s being played throughout England by a London television station.

Holli-Seabury-2012

Holli Seabury, CEO, wife and mom 7

Tip of the Week: My Family Table Changes

Guest Columnist: Laura Ramsey shares…

Our family table came into my husband’s family when his grandfather purchased a furnished fishing cottage on Lake James back in the ‘40s for some $5,000. It was given to us when we married, since the rest of his family trended towards a more modern look. It was refinished and soon enough our four children were eating every lunch and dinner of their lives sitting around this table.

Our Family Table, where we heard about the first day of school, the victories on the kick ball and Wildcat field, Scouting activities, reports due, try outs, band, dance, homework, mean lunch ladies, boring teachers, great teachers, interesting things learned, friends, SAT scores and college choices. Oh, and we ate too! Basic home cooked meals that satisfied both the body and spirit.

It is Back to School week and we will celebrate with our youngest children at three different colleges and the oldest out of college and gainfully employed in New Jersey. I looked at the table this morning with bittersweet nostalgia and a certain amount of triumph. We did it!
Four healthy children who continue to eat healthy, even in college. The oldest has discovered great delis in New Jersey; the second found the farmer’s market in Baltimore on her third day; the third is known to have supper parties where he cooks salmon! The fourth scoped out the dining hall that served the best vegetarian entrees on campus. Morristown, Baltimore, West Lafayette, and Bloomington; they all have their own tables now.

So we send our children as young adults out into the world and my pressing concerns are—where to store the table leaf and how to make chicken noodles for two!

Tip of the Week: School Night Meal Planning

School is literally right around the corner…you may be asking, where did the summer go? (me, too!)

In many cases, this makes a routine more likely for our family. On the bus at 8:30, off the bus at 4:00, homework before TV, dinner at 6:15. Oh, and all those other school activities, Back to School Nights, book fairs, athletic practices, etc. Not to mention homework. Getting it all done, and food on the table can be a challenge. Here’s some great tips for how to plan for school night meals.

All the fun doesn’t have to end with school starting. There are some great activities coming up throughout our region that promote celebrating our community spirit. Food is generally an important part of any festival. Plus, attending events as a family encourages togetherness.

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