The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “Conversation Starters”

Tip of the Week: Dark Chocolate Valentine

Collection of chocolates

Featured recipe

Have you ever sat down with a bag of Dove’s chocolates nearby and after a few minutes realized that the table was littered with more than one crumpled wrapper?  Nope, me either 🙂  What I have noticed is that inside those foils are really cute (and sometimes challenging) comments. One I have taped up in my work space reads, “Keep the promises you make yourself.”

With these words in mind and Valentine’s Day just a week or so away, thoughts definitely turn to chocolate. And then the sneaking glances begin because just a short five weeks ago, I made a better health commitment. I intended to exercise more.

I was excited to read this article in Women’s Health which revealed that there are several health benefits to eating dark chocolate (note, NOT milk chocolate, or chocolate chips, but DARK chocolate.)

– About a square of dark chocolate a day may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent

– Dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods and may make you feel more full

– Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and flavonoids, both tied to super foods

– Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy handled stress than mothers-to-be who abstained (these women’s babies were also happier and smiled more than those who avoided dark chocolate)

– When dealing with stress, dark chocolate may help people deal with emotional eating better than a pint of ice cream

– Dark chocolate also contains theobromine, a chemical responsible for chocolate’s feel-good effect

Imagine my excitement to read that dark chocolate (my favorite) could be doing me more good than harm. Of course, eating the whole bag is probably not good! As always, moderation is most appropriate. Be an example for those who sit around your table and eat just one chocolate (and then throw the wrapper* away, of course!)  Children learn most of their attitudes about food from their parents.  It’s human nature to love sweets, but we can teach our children to enjoy sweets in moderation.


Frances Brooks
Director of Operations & Business Development

Do you have a favorite dark chocolate recipe to share? Please Pin it or Share it on our social media pages so all of our readers can benefit from your recipe box!

Tip of the Week: Teen Drug Abuse

shutterstock_72761899 low resFeatured Recipe

My middle school daughter rides the bus to and from each morning and afternoon. I remember riding the school bus most of the way through school. There are a lot of conversations going on in that 15-40 minutes our children are on the bus. Sadly, not all of them are ones that we hear about as soon as they happen. One conversation that has been on our family’s radar is how many teens are abusing prescription drugs. Last year more than 1 in 5 Indiana students surveyed reported using prescription drugs without a prescription. This is the second highest rate in the nation.*

Bitter Pill is working to inform youth and parents about the dangers of using prescription drugs illegally. It is easy to think that “my child” wouldn’t do something illegal, but as the fictional account below shows, it may be more likely than you think. Consider bringing this topic up to your son, daughter, niece, nephew or grandchildren at your next family meal. Be prepared for the eye rolling. But remember, if you talk, they will hear you, even if you think they don’t.

From Teen/Youth at
“Casey” was really stressing out about the big chemistry exam. She had a ton of other homework to work on and it didn’t feel like there were enough hours in the day ― between softball practice, student government meetings, and babysitting ― to study. So when her friend, Laura, handed her the Adderall in the hallway one day, she thought she’d give it a try. Tons of other kids in school used it to focus more and stay awake… “What could it hurt?” a friend told her.

Later that friend said, “If you need more, my brother can get them. Mom thinks he is taking his ADHD meds. He sells them. Just call me and ask for ‘Addy’.” Her test scores were solid those first few weeks. Prom was coming up. She was so excited, she started having trouble sleeping. Confessing to another friend, she was given some pills to calm her back down. Neither of these friends was a doctor. Her parents were divorced and barely spoke. They both missed the signs and her mood changes. Both Casey and her friends missed the prom that year and no one calls to ask for Addy now.

Prescription drugs are proving to be just as dangerous as street drugs and alcohol use amongst teenagers in our state. Bitter Pill’s Parent Page offers information on prevention and awareness.

*According to the Indiana Youth Survey 2012, Indiana Prevention Resource Center

Frances Brooks
Director of Operations & Business Development

Tip of the Week: Holiday Budget


Featured recipe

As my family finished eating one of our favorite meals over the weekend, I took the opportunity to discuss our holiday budget for this year. My husband and I agreed earlier in the season that we would only spend a certain amount on our son and nephews for Christmas. Our son is 4 years old, soon to be 5, and understands budgeting to a certain extent. We are trying to teach him the difference between wants and needs.

I found a couple of websites that explain how to teach your child about budgeting and We followed their simple steps and compiled our list of people we would buy gifts for and we told our son our budget limit for gifts this year. We asked him to make a list of gifts he would like to receive and looked up the cost of those toys at a few online stores. We let him pick out his teacher’s and babysitter’s gift.

We had a lot of fun making our gift list and talking about what we wanted to give and receive. Make sure to have fun with your family as you try to open the conversation at your dinner table to the topic of budgeting this holiday season!

Jodie Godfrey
Marketing & Development Associate

Tip of the Week: Talking About School


Featured Recipe

What topic is most discussed at your family table?

At my house, dinner almost always opens with school-related conversation. Complaints about homework are the most common! These comments are usually quickly rebuffed with, “this is your responsibility.” Depending on the day, this may or may not end the conversation, or it may prolong it! As a family, we have discussed the social studies assignment that is due right after Thanksgiving break, the daily math homework, and we frequently discuss how important it is to get these items turned in on time. Valuable partners in this conversation are our daughters’ teachers.

Since this week is American Education Week we encourage you to honor your children’s teachers. If you do not have kids at home, we suggest talking about education to nieces, nephews, neighbors, grandchildren or the kids down the street, as this message is very important. A coworker shared that her son, who attends Forrest Park Elementary in Fort Wayne, is especially pleased with how the educators have worked with her son this year. “I look forward to the rest of this school year and the exciting things ahead for my son’s education,” said Jodie Godfrey, Marketing & Development Assistant.  “I am grateful for the educators who have played an important role in his education this school year.”

As my daughters are now half way done with their school careers, the topic of college comes up more and more often. A friend recently shared that there are some great resources that your family might benefit from – paying for college can certainly be a difficult conversation for many families. There are even apps that will encourage elementary students to take these important steps! Sitting down as a family and talking through your child’s plans never happens at too young of an age.  It’s important for our children to know what our expectations are for them attending college and how it will be paid for. Trip to College and Big Future have planning tips and suggestions.  If your family is feeling like college is not possible, view other’s stories about how they made it work.

Tonight at your family table ask your children to tell you about their favorite teacher and why they are their favorite.  You may be surprised at the answer!


Frances Brooks

Director of Operations
& Business Development

Tip of the Week: Anti-Alcohol

Featured Recipe

With the snow this week, and the holiday displays hitting retail stores like crazy, conversations are quickly turning to the holidays. This time of year brings to mind many things: baking, family, friends and holiday parties. Depending on your opinions about alcohol, these parties may include drinking. Even in households where drinking is socially acceptable, it is important to set up guidelines with the children in your life about what is legal, appropriate and what you expect.

I can remember the girl in my class whose mom was home when my friends and I came over, and the alcohol came out. Not only does it send the wrong message when a parent hosts a party with teens where alcohol is being served, it is illegal. Declare your home a party safe house. Monitor the alcohol that is in your home and connect with other parents where your child spends time to ensure that they know what you expect.

Do you remember this old 80s ad: Do you know where your kids are? Who their friends are? Who their friend’s parents are and what is important to them? As my oldest entered middle school this year, this seems more ominous than ever. Activities after school, dances, youth group, this club, that group… these all crowd our calendar more than ever. And, at each one of these activities are people who influence our daughter’s choices.

This is part of her growing independence, however it is important that she knows what we expect of her. And the same is true in your child’s life. In a recent study, 64% of eighth graders said alcohol was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get and one in three 8th graders reported drinking within the last year. One of the most important things you can do to influence your child’s response to drinking is to talk about it, and your family table is the perfect place to bring up the conversation. Need some ideas for how to start the conversation? There are a number of resources at Talk: They Hear You.


Frances Brooks
Director of Operations and Business Development

Tip of the Week: Souper, Super Easy!

Souper, Super Easy

A couple weekends ago, a few of girlfriends and I got away for the weekend. Our spouses and kids stayed at home to run the rat race which seems to be our weekends these days. We took off for a lake cottage. In October, there are quite a few less people frolicking about in the water and sunshine. It was quiet and we had the opportunity to reconnect with each other. In order to accomplish this, we took several steps to prepare. None of them were hard, and at least one was souper, super easy!

1) We turned off our cell phones and left the other electronic devices that guide (demand) our time at home. I admit, I did check it each night before turning in, and promptly when I got up. But, I did not check it each time it dinged because with it off, it doesn’t ding!
2) We potlucked, leaving little food preparation that had to be done while we were away. Do you remember that soup can be an entire meal (or two!)? We dined on two different soups, and with crackers we had plenty. I had forgotten how easy soup can be, especially when using a crockpot.
3) We listened to each other. In this fast-paced, get-it-done-yesterday world, we stopped talking over one another and actually had the time and energy to hear what the others were saying.
4) We looked out the window and were reminded why Indiana is the place to be in the fall with the beautifully changing leaves (or winter with the snow, or spring with the new leaves). Then, either alone, or with a couple of friends we went for a walk and the bright sunshine and fresh air were rejuvenating.
5) We laughed, and laughed, and laughed. It was like we were in college again. No cares, no clocks, just ‘sisters’ who made the time to remember silliness.

Once it came time to pack and head home, I really was ready to get back to the kids and hubby. The slower pace we had just practiced reminded me to see them, to look at their eyes and watch their smiles. By reconnecting with my friends, I was able to breathe a bit. That is too often missing from my normal M-F routine.

Recipe –


Frances Brooks

Director of Marketing

You’re Invited to the Family Table Celebration Dinner – Sept. 27th


Family Table Celebration Dinner – Sept. 27th

Celebrate the success of Family Table’s 2nd year by joining the McMillen Center at Fort4Fitness.

On Friday, September 27, the McMillen Center will announce the year 3 theme for the Family Table project, as well as celebrate “Together, We Eat Better.” In partnership with Fort4Fitness, a family meal is planned from 5 – 8:30 p.m. Bring a meal to Parkview Field, or join us at the Huntington University Picnic Pavilion for a pasta dinner. Contribute $10 to the Family Table project and receive a FREE pasta dinner.

Contribute $10 to the Family Table project and receive a FREE pasta dinner

To make a one time contribution, use your debit card, a Paypal account is not required.

SIGN UP to Receive Prizes:

  • $200 Waiter on the Way Gift Certificate
  • $300 Package from Bussick Orthodonics
  • Admission and Lessons to Ice Skate at Lutheran Health Sports Center
  • 2 Olive Oil Bottles and Gift Basket from The Olive Twist
  • Tanglewood Berry Farm Cookbook
  • Canlin Ice Family Pass Certificate
  • Sky Zone 4 Family Fun Package
  • Crazy Pinz Group Party Package
  • Crazy Pinz Kingpin Membership

For more infromation on Family Meals, visit

McMillen Center for Health Education | 260-456-4511 | | | 600 Jim Kelley Blvd. | Fort Wayne, IN 46816

Thanks to our Family Table sponsors:

Tip of the Week:


This Week’s Featured Recipe

You’re eating breakfast at the table, and the family is ‘shoveling it in.’ After taking the time to prepare a full meal, it would be great to have them look up and acknowledge that there are other people at the table. But let’s be honest, morning is about the worst time to expect good conversation. When working to fit in three meals with all of us together at the table, summer is has proven to be a bit difficult. A meal in the evenings has proven to be quite challenging recently, so especially on the weekends, we try to have at least one morning meal together.

Here are three ideas to consider for making morning meal times more interactive:

#1: Having a conversation at the breakfast table about how their day went seems odd. Some other ideas include: a word of the day, or having everyone wearing the same color for the day, or “one thing I’d like to accomplish today…” Try to think of accomplishments beyond the typical chores list, considering creative ideas or new skills you’d like to learn.

#2: Set a goal for the next week’s meals. Ask your family for suggestions on what might be added to the grocery list. While cleaning up their plate, have them try to have them give you ideas for foods that are ‘the colors of the rainbow,’ that are both bright-colored and crunchy. (Yes, we know that Skittles are both brightly colored and crunchy, but this is not necessarily the health-conscious choice we were endorsing!) Sneak some power foods into breakfast with this week’s Recipe of the Week that features Veggies for Breakfast.

#3: Consider talking about the Health Tips from Fort4Fitness. Their Tip of the Day can give your family different suggestions on how to make little changes that can make a big impact!

Frances Brooks Casual 2012

Frances Brooks, Director of Business Development & Operations, wife and mom of 2

Tip of the Week: Outdoor Activities


This Week’s Featured Recipe

You may remember that for Father’s Day the Family Table had a drawing for a grill and $100 gift card, provided by Meijer.  We caught up with winner Keith Koteskey to ask about his views on family meals – and we found out he’s making great use of his new grill!  Fire up your own grill and make this week’s Featured Recipe. This week’s recipe makes use of those zucchini that are exploding all over your garden, or that your neighbors are forcing on you!   

Q and A with Keith:

Family Table: How has the grill helped your family time?

Keith: Grilling is a family event in our house, it is a way that we bond as a family and spend time together. For us, grilling represents healthy cooking and healthy eating. We prefer grilling food over things like frying the food. The grill also gives the food flavor and you can cook a variety of foods. As a family, we enjoy eating dinner together; the grill is a huge part of that. One of our favorite things to do in the summer is grill and eat dinner out on our deck, one of our favorite spots.

Family Table: What types of outdoor activities go along with grilling?

Keith: Our family loves to hike, that is one of the things we enjoy doing a lot. A lot of times we will go to a state park and hike the trails and then cook food on grills to eat lunch. One of the other activities we love to do as a family is camping. We are actually going on a 6-day camping trip this summer as our summer vacation. Grilling goes along with camping, so we do grill a lot when we go on camping vacations.

Family Table: Now that summer is finally here, what are some outdoor activities you like to do with your family?

Keith: As a family, we enjoy biking. Quite often we take long bike rides along the River Greenway and the Aboite Trails. We also enjoy playing outdoor games such as Frisbee and bocce.


Keith Koteskey

Tip of the Week: Kids Choice Dinner


This Week’s Featured Recipe

We’ve all heard it a 1,000 times (at least 1,000!)… “I don’t want that!” from the seat across from you at the table. It often refers to the green veggie-like items that you’ve set down as the perfect complement to your hearty entrée. Often in our office, we discuss what we eat, or are eating. This inevitably leads to what our children won’t eat! My friends go through this quite often, in fact, so much so that when they are coming over for a meal, I try to remember what their kids don’t eat. In one family, it is almost everything but spaghetti, and in another it’s anything with cheese on it. So, in an effort to figure out how to manage this minefield – because really, who likes a fight at the dinner table? – we have been trying to get our kids to cook more often and choose what we all will dine on. Some people call this “Kids Choice Dinner”

Breakfast is very easy. My oldest has started cooking eggs. Since she only likes them one way, that is how we all eat them. Or, my youngest made salad the other night. True, I encouraged her to cut the romaine lettuce leaves smaller, but she decided we would have Caesar Salad with chicken. Then, when we all sat down to eat, we built our own, as opposed to mixing the dressing on, in the bowl; we each added our own. Surprisingly, there were no leftovers! With younger kids, it might be easiest to try new items next to ones that everyone loves – like a new side dish with chicken fingers, or a new veggie pasta in your favorite pasta salad.

Kids are resilient – and if you are really bold, and try to include them in the meal planning, you might find that “ball beans” as my sister called peas, are a new, re-appearing guest at your table!

Happy summer!

Frances Brooks Casual 2012

Frances Brooks, Director of Marketing & Operations, wife and mom of 2

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