The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “dinner”

Three Secrets to Healthy Eating

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Recipe of the Week: 

What’s the secret to making healthy nutritional choices? A new report analyzing 112 studies found that most healthy eaters did so because 1. A restaurant, grocery store, spouse or parent made foods like fruits and vegetables visible and easy to reach; 2 Healthy choices were enticingly displayed,and looked good; 3. Healthy choices were the easy, obvious choice.  This makes sense – we probably aren’t going to go looking in the fridge for an apple when there is a plate of delicious looking cookies sitting on the counter.

To help ourselves, and our family, make healthy choices, we can remember these concepts and put the healthy foods front and center in our line of vision, and put the less healthy foods out of sight.  We also need to make the healthy foods look good and be easy to prepare – we may have peppers and hummus in the fridge to snack on, but if the peppers aren’t sliced, we will most likely just grab a bag of tortilla chips to dip in the hummus rather than taking the time to slice the peppers.  Having fruits and veggies pre-sliced will make them the easy choice.

I had to laugh a little when I read this study because we practice these concepts in our house, but it’s mainly to hide food from the teenager.  If I buy ice cream, I can guarantee it will be gone in a day unless I hide it in the back of the freezer behind the bags of veggies!

Here is a link to the study.

Holli-Seabury-2012

Holli Seabury

CEO and Mother of Seven

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Salad Bar at Home

SaladBar

Recipe of the Week

Typically, if we’re having salad with dinner, I make up my kids’ plates with some lettuce and a few toppings and then set it in front of them. They will usually eat it, but they don’t get excited about it…and they definitely don’t ask for seconds! Recently, I asked my daughter if she would like me to set up a ‘salad bar’ at home and let each person choose their own toppings. This idea absolutely appealed to her and she could not wait until dinner that night! I set out all the toppings in separate bowls on the kitchen table and let each kid walk down the line making their own salad (even if that meant little fingers went into each and every ingredient…). They were fairly predictable with what they chose, but they did choose a few toppings that I wouldn’t have given them if I had been the one to make their salad. And I was shocked by the amounts of each veggie they added. I never would have put quite as many diced green peppers into one of my boys’ bowl…but he added quite a few…and then gobbled down each and every bite!

They LOVED doing this and each kid ate two full bowls of the salad they made for themselves. I offered once to help them with their refill, but…not a chance! They were all just as excited to get out of their chairs and make up their own bowl for round two. This is definitely something we’ll keep doing!

And, of course, the ideas for salad toppings are limitless! Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Base: green leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce, baby spinach
  • Protein: thinly sliced deli meat, cubed pieces of ham or turkey, bacon, walnuts, pecans, almonds, sliced hardboiled eggs, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Dried fruit: raisins, cranberries, diced apples
  • Veggies: bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, tomatoes
  • Freshly shredded cheese or grated Parmesan

And for the salad dressing? I usually keep it pretty simple with this basic homemade combination:

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 T honey
  • Dash of salt

I hope this make-your-own-salad bar concept is an idea your family will enjoy just as much as ours has! For more family friendly recipes and tips, check out my blog: www.realfitrealfoodmom.com

LeAnn Nome

LeAnn Nome, blogger & mom of three little ones

Breakfast for Dinner

Egg-in-the-Hole-2

Recipe of the Week

We are frequently a family-on-the-go.  Planning a family meal has gotten more challenging this semester.  I can certainly come up with a number of excuses as to why, but that misses the point.  As we have refocused our efforts to sit down at the table, sans phones and tablets, with a healthy plate of food in front of us, things have shifted a bit.

The girls are now in middle school, and as such, both are fairly competent chefs (well, sandwiches and mac-n-cheese). We have been fortunate to have a diverse palette and often they will eat most things put in front of them.  As they are getting older, we have been trying to teach them some additional tricks in the kitchen.  One essential – a fast meal comes from eggs.  And, they work for breakfast, lunch or dinner (brinner in our house!)

Are you looking for ways to cook with your little ones, but aren’t real sure?  Try this idea from Weelicious!

Just last week, we used up the dozen we try to keep on hand. Luckily, one of our friends, who is raising her own chickens gave us a fresh dozen! While I am not brave enough to take on a mean chicken (oh the stories I’ve been told!) I certainly did enjoy breakfast with those bright-colored yolks!

Frances_Brooks-2012

Frances Brooks

Director of Operations & Business Development and Mother of Two

The Egg is Back!

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Recipe of the Week

I love eggs! Scrambled, hard-boiled, as omelets – I love eggs in all forms.  Some of my fondest memories from childhood are picnics at the beach eating egg salad sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. I think sandwiches just tasted better back in the days when we used wax paper! Not only are eggs delicious, they are one of the least expensive forms of protein.

For the past several years the guidelines for dietary cholesterol  recommended greatly restricting eggs.  Frankly, I ignored that recommendation – I loved eggs too much to give them up. But eggs are back in vogue – new recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reflect recent research showing dietary cholesterol does not necessarily lead to high cholesterol in humans. Eggs are also a major source of choline, which is associated with liver health and women’s health. Choline may also support the brain during aging and help prevent changes in brain chemistry that result in cognitive decline and failure.

In other words, it’s ok to eat eggs again as part of a healthy diet!*  A favorite egg-based dinner  in my house is crustless feta and spinach quiche. Serve with a salad and quiche of any flavor makes an easy, scrumptious meal.

One of the things I love most about eggs is that they have been the first meal I have taught my kids how to cook.  Scrambling or hard boiling eggs is easy and I would rather have my kids scramble eggs for an after school snack than eat something less healthy.  Here’s an easy guide to teaching your kids how to  cook some egg-based  recipes

*Always follow dietary recommendations given by your physician.

Holli-Seabury-2012

CEO and Mother of Seven

10 Reasons to Eat Together

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Recipe of the Week

I enjoy spending time with my family around the dinner table even though cooking has never been a hobby of mine. We try to have as many meals as possible sitting together around the table each week. It is one of my favorite parts of the day! It is a wonderful opportunity to share the happenings from the day with each other. There are so many other benefits for mind, body and soul to eating with your family to keep in mind!

  1. When families eat together meals tend to be healthier.
  2. Children in families that eat dinner together are less likely to be overweight.
  3. Children tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  4. Children in families who eat together get better grades.
  5. When families eat together frequently, children have better language skills.
  6. Children of families who eat together report being happier.
  7. Working mothers report feeling less stress if they have family meal times compared to those that do not.
  8. Teenagers are less likely to use drugs, smoke and drink alcoholic drinks.
  9. Teenagers are less likely to become depressed, suicidal or pregnant.
  10. Eating together helps families build stronger communication and relationships.

What benefits do you see in your family from spending meal time together?

BethanyClapper_2012

Bethany Clapper, Director of Development & Marketing and Mother of Two

Starting an Herb Garden

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This Week’s Recipe

We may have just had a spring snow, but we have also had a few days now where spring has shown us that it is (hopefully) right around the corner. I love hearing the birds in the morning and seeing the sunshine! I am so ready for this winter to be over and to be doing activities outside! Do you feel the same?

I want to head out to a local nursery and buy plants and seeds and soil. This year I want to try something new; planting an herb garden. I love watching flowers bloom that we have planted and this year I also want to be able to taste what we are growing in our salads, sauces and soups! I am going to be following these simple guidelines:

  1. Picking your herbs- start with picking out your favorite seeds. Some basics include basil, chives, cilantro, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme.
  2. Location- you want a spot with good soil that will receive ample sun light, yet be shielded from wind.
  3. Care for your herbs- water regularly, place mulch around the base, fertilize monthly and prune as needed
  4. Harvest- and ENJOY!

Growing herbs is a great family activity, too. Kids can help throughout the entire process and they will love seeing what they have helped grow in their dinner.

BethanyClapper_2012

Bethany Clapper, Director of Development & Marketing and Mother of Two

Finding a Quick and Easy Dinner for Two

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This Week’s Recipe

I was talking to my parents last night on the phone, both of whom are retired and live in Florida, and they were talking about what to have for dinner. Ever since I was a child my mom has not enjoyed cooking and did not look forward to making dinner each night. But every night when my dad would get home from work there was a hot home cooked meal prepared by her on the table to enjoy. Last night was pretty typical as they were trying to decide what they were going to have for dinner and they didn’t want chicken breasts again. Since they are living in a 55 and older community often they are busy with church, volunteer work, social events and activities, but last night they were staying in.

We may know a home cooked meal is a healthier option than eating out, but that doesn’t mean we all enjoy cooking. Sometimes it seems like it is hard to think of a meal that I haven’t cooked over and over (like my mom and chicken breasts!). The internet can be a life saver for finding quick and easy recipes. Put a shout out to Facebook friends for their favorite recipes or hop on Pinterest. I told my mom about some new recipes I had pinned on Pinterest and that she should check them out and try them with my dad. One of them was a shrimp stir fry that was really tasty and easy to make for just two people. I look forward to hearing if they enjoyed it and I hope you give it a try too. Let us know if you enjoyed the recipe!

BethanyClapper_2012

Bethany Clapper, Director of Development & Marketing and Mother of Two

A Complaint Free Dinner Hour

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This Week’s Recipe

How many of us parents have prepared meals only to be confronted by a child (or spouse) who doesn’t like, doesn’t want or isn’t in the mood for what we just fixed. What happens next is one of two unpleasant scenarios–1) fixing an alternate meal for the unhappy person, 2) standing your ground and facing a fit.

Having faced this situation time after time, I was determined to find a mutually agreeable solution for our family of four that didn’t include me working as a short order cook! It occurred to me that I usually planned dinner four nights a week. On Sundays, we had a tradition of making homemade pizza, which everyone enjoyed. One night every week or two, we ate out or ordered in. The meals I fixed on the other nights usually generated a night or two of leftovers, which, fortunately no one objected to on principle. Of course, if someone didn’t want it or like it on night one, they sure didn’t want it on night two!

Since there are four people in our family, I told my husband and children that I was going to ask them on Thursday when I make the grocery list, what meal they want the next week. The caveat was each one of us would have a choice, and each one of us would eat without complaints everyone else’s choice. There were two other conditions. I could round out the meal with side dishes if the meal was not well balanced. And although I would not make an alternate meal, I would keep yogurt on hand if someone truly didn’t like the protein we were having.

This had some immediate benefits that I had not anticipated. It made grocery shopping much easier and ultimately cheaper. It eliminated those nights when I was at a loss as to what to fix. If the kids had picked something like chicken nuggets or burgers, I was sure to add a healthy side dish. Then I would pick a meal like roast or tilapia. If someone picked a meal that was labor intensive, I’d be sure to pick a meal that week that I could make in 30 minutes or less. On leftover night, there was usually something available from each of our meals.

This resulted in a very manageable routine with very little whining. Everyone had a say in what we ate, and we saved time and money. If you’ve become a short order cook, or face a barrage of whining at mealtime, why not think about how you could give everyone a choice in exchange for a complaint free dinner hour?

Sally Edington
Friend of McMillen Center and Mother of Two

What Grade Does Fast Food Get You?

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This Week’s Recipe

When I was growing up in south central Pennsylvania, the closest fast food restaurants were about 15 miles away. Fast food was something I ate infrequently, maybe a few times a year. Today, nearly every tiny town has some form of fast food and most families eat fast food on a fairly frequent basis. Nearly half of Americans eat fast food anywhere from once a week to several times a week.

However, a new study shows we may want to rethink how often we feed fast food to our children. In looking at the school performance of over 11,000 children, it was found that the amount of fast food children eat may be linked to how well they do in school. The more fast food children ate in fifth grade, the lower their growth in reading, math, and science test scores by the time they reached eighth grade.

It wasn’t just a small difference either – students who ate the most fast food had test score gains that were up to about 20 percent lower than those who didn’t eat any fast food. The lead author of the study said, “There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there. Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom.”

Children who ate fast food four to six times per week or every day had significantly lower gains in reading, math and science compared to children who did not eat any fast food the week before the survey. Although the study didn’t determine why children who ate more fast food didn’t do as well in school, the researchers point out that fast food lacks certain nutrients, like iron, that help children’s brains develop. Diets high in fat and sugar, like fast food, have been shown to hurt memory and learning.

As a mom who does rely on fast food sometimes to get a meal on the table, what do I do with this information? Well, it will certainly cause me to rethink how often I go through the drive-through. If you do need to go through a drive through to get dinner on the table, here are some hints to make the meals not quite as unhealthy:

  • Skip the soda pop. Choose the milk or water option.
  • Drop the fries and either choose a fruit option with a kid’s meal, or if you are serving the fast food at home put some fresh fruit on the table or quickly heat up frozen veggies.
  • Try to choose grilled meat, rather than deep fried.

Holli-Seabury-2012

Holli Seabury
CEO and Mother of Seven

What if I told you that dinner could save a life?

family at table

This Week’s Recipe

What if I told you that something as simple as a family dinner has the potential to save a life? It sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Or perhaps it sounds like an exaggeration. However, I’m not so much talking about what’s on the table as I am referring to who’s at the table.

According to a September 2012 report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia), teens who took part in regular family dinners were significantly less likely to take part in destructive behaviors such as drug and alcohol use. Additionally, the report revealed that teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven a week) are more likely to say they have an excellent relationship with their parents when compared to teens who ate dinner with their parents fewer than three times a week.

This wasn’t the first time that CASAColumbia found such results. In fact, the 2012 report was the eighth in a series of annual “Importance of Family Dinners” studies that all came to very similar conclusions. Year after year, the results have shown that regular family dinners can reduce everything from teen substance abuse to teen stress levels.

So it’s true: something as basic as eating a meal together five to seven days a week can have a very powerful effect. However, in this digital era, family meals are becoming increasingly uncommon. How many of us eat dinner as families anymore? And if we do, are we truly eating together, conversing, and interacting with each other? Are we genuinely listening to one another? Or is the TV on? Are we on our phones, checking social media, email, or even work-related updates?

It’s often been said that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and nowhere is that proverb more applicable than in this situation. In this instance, the ounce of prevention is taking the time to get together to eat, putting down the phone, turning off the TV, openly speaking, and actively listening. In the short term, the ounce of prevention may seem inconvenient or even mildly uncomfortable for some people. However, the proverbial “pound of cure” that can be required when a teen gets caught up in the world of substance abuse can be far worse than a mere inconvenience or mild discomfort. Yet too many families wait for a crisis to arise to change their family dynamic, communication, and habits.

However, for some families, a family dinner is impossible. Sometimes schedules don’t permit everyone getting together around dinner time. That’s when it becomes necessary to set aside a different time to get together, whether it’s for a meal or other activity that allows for good communication. What’s most important is that the setting allows everyone involved to focus on one another in a distraction-free environment.

At most, regular family dinners have been shown to have the ability to help prevent very destructive youth behaviors. At the very least, they provide families with the time and setting to communicate and get to know one another better. Considering how much hangs in the balance, why not set aside some time today to get together as a family?

For more tips on healthy communication, read our “Talking to Kids” electronic pamphlet:
http://50.62.253.121/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Talking-to-Kids-ver3.pdf

CASA Columbia 2012 press release (“The Importance of Family Dinners VIII”):http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/PressReleases.aspx?articleid=697&zoneid=95

Shane Watson
Communications Coordinator
notMYkid.org

“notMYkid is an Arizona-based nonprofit that seeks to inspire positive life choices by educating students, parents, and school faculty on six topics: substance abuse, bullying, Internet safety, depression, unhealthy relationships, and body image.”

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