The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “food”

Mindful Tasting

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This is a 3rd and final blog edition offering you tidbits on bringing awareness to the act of eating. With awareness a new layer of wellness is revealed that comes from within you!  One begins by simply slowing down and noticing. And for those of you with children, I will offer an eating activity to help you and your kids slow down, notice and enjoy eating!

You can become a more mindful, aware eater.  Just like any new skill, the journey is in the daily practice. The following exercise*, which I call mindful tasting, is fun to do on your own or shared with children. Don’t rush the tasting. Enjoy!

Each person will mindfully taste a Clementine which is small and easy for little ones to peel. Provide a Clementine for each person. If with children, the adult will guide the discussion. Here’s what to do:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Admire the color, shape, and texture of the Clementine.
  3. Clementines grow on trees in warm climates. Close your eyes and imagine where your Clementine grew. Can you feel the warm sun? Can you smell the blossoms? Can you see the fruit on the trees?
  4. Open your eyes and smell the Clementine.
  5. Place the Clementine on a napkin or piece of paper towel. Roll it firmly on the table to release the Clementine’s essence.
  6. Pick up the Clementine again and smell the essence.
  7. Begin to peel the Clementine. Take time to smell the Clementine again. Does it smell stronger? Sweeter? Peel the fruit slowly, taking time to enjoy the aroma, texture, and color.
  8. Separate a couple of segments. Examine their inner structure – hundreds of tiny juice-filled sacs.
  9. Place a segment in your mouth, close your eyes, and bite down. Pay attention to how the juice bursts into your mouth and fills it with orange flavor.
  10. Chew slowly and experience the texture of the membrane. How is this different than drinking a glass of orange juice?
  11. As you chew slowly, pretend this is the last Clementine on earth. It’s all yours!

Was the Clementine satisfying? Why or why not?

Do you usually eat Clementines in this way?

What would happen if you ate food this way more often?

How often do you eat because you are hungry for food? How much is to fill a need that has nothing to do with food?

Imagine your orange really is the last one on earth, and it’s your job to keep the memory of the Clementine from being lost from the world. Think about what you would say to another person. How would you describe the experience so he/she could appreciate a Clementine?

I hope you found this series on mindfulness and bring awareness to the act of eating helpful. For more information, feel free to contact me at www.reidenbachnutrition.com

* Adapted from University of Wyoming, Cooperative Extension Service. MP112-5.

Ann Reidenbach, MPH, RD, CD of Reidenbach Nutrition, LLC

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Slow Down, Notice and Enjoy

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This Week’s Recipe

This is a 2nd blog edition offering you tidbits on bringing awareness to the act of eating. With awareness a new layer of wellness is revealed that comes from within you! The process of increasing eating awareness is really the same for everyone. One begins by simply slowing down and noticing. Think of it as observing yourself – simply observing your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They are in constant play as we travel through our day and are part of what makes us a unique individual.

Slow down. If we could all slow down just a little bit! We live in a fast-paced society that allows for little time to pause, little time to reflect. Dr. Stephanie Brown, author of “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster — and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down”, outlines a strong case for the benefits of slowing down and the hazards of multi-tasking.

How do we slow down with eating? We begin with the act of a pause. Turn off the TV, remove the newspaper, magazine or school work, move away from the computer screen.

Megrette Fletcher, M.Ed., RD suggests slowly reciting a series of words just moments before we eat to bring our attention to the act of eating. Think of what each word or phrase means as you read:

Relax. Be attentive. Savor. Take your time. Be deliberate. Give thanks. Don’t rush.  Experience every bite. Take only what you need. Be gracious. Live in dignity. Treat yourself well. Enjoy those with you.

Write these words on 3” by 5” cards. Place a card on your dining table at home, in your car and at work. Pause. Step away from eating on ‘auto-pilot’.

Notice.  Remain in the moment as you begin, during and as you end the meal. Notice sensations of hunger before a meal and fullness as you end a meal. There are many hunger-fullness rating scales available. The following was created by Debra Waterhouse:

10 – Absolutely, positively, lie-on-the-floor stuffed
9 – So full, starting to hurt
8 – Very full and bloated
7 – Feels food in stomach, comfortably full
6 – Feels food in stomach, not yet comfortably full
5 – No sense of food in stomach, no hunger signals
4 – First, early signals that your body needs food
3 – Stronger signals to eat
2 – Very hungry, irritable
1 – Extreme hunger, dizziness

Listen to your body. How often do you eat when physically hungry? How often do you eat to point of uncomfortable fullness? For now, just notice. If you are not physically hungry, why do you eat? Consider that eating can truly only solve those problems associated with hunger and a physical need for nourishment.

Enjoy. Enjoying eating allows you to experience every bite – the first, the last and all the bites in-between. Allow the attention you bring to eating to enliven your senses: sight, smell, texture, hearing and taste. Notice when your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the act of eating the next bite. Eating in this way allows you to mindfully consider the following. Am I enjoying this? Am I reaching fullness?  Can I be done eating now? When we do not notice the enjoyment of food, we miss out on being satisfied on just the right amount.

You can become a more mindful, aware eater. Just like any new skill the journey is in the daily practice.

Ann Reidenbach, MPH, RD, CD of Reidenbach Nutrition, LLC

Bringing Awareness to the Act of Eating

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There is an abundance of health and nutrition information available to us from health professionals, books, the internet, coaches, store clerks, friends and family. Most of this information, sometimes conflicting, offers us tips on what and where to eat. It can be difficult to sift through all of the information coming at us leaving one to consider “what is really right for me?”

You might consider slowing down all of that chatter in your mind about food, weight and health and consider a focus on self awareness. This blog edition – and 2 more to follow – will offer you a foundation of how bringing awareness to the act of eating can improve eating behaviors and attitudes opening a new layer of wellness that comes from within you! This process of increasing eating awareness is really the same for everyone. One begins by simply noticing and learning, without judgment, about one’s unique relationship with food and the act of eating. Think of it as observing yourself with kindness – thoughts, feelings and behaviors!

Our relationship with food includes how we think and talk about food. Both of these drive our behaviors around food. Do you ever think the donuts in the break room at work are ‘calling’ you? Of course, they are not, but it is an indication of your attitude about donuts and how you have experienced them in the past. Consider all of the thoughts you have about and around food for 1 day. Write them down. This awareness of thoughts will give you a good sense of what your unique relationship with food is.

Growing self awareness will help to see what triggers you to eat. If you are not physically hungry why do you eat? Consider that eating can truly only solve those problems associated with hunger and a physical need for nourishment. We are triggered to eat in “non-hunger” ways. Some examples include when physically tired or when feeling anxiety or having worried thoughts. Why do you eat when not hungry? Make a note of it – become aware.

You may discover that you have some eating behaviors you wish to change. Permanent changes in troublesome eating habits usually don’t happen through control and willpower, but by personal awareness and acceptance of what’s happening in that moment of eating. In the next blog edition we will explore how new health habits emerge with self awareness and acceptance.

Ann Reidenbach, MPH, RD, CD of Reidenbach Nutrition, LLC

Finding a Quick and Easy Dinner for Two

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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!

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

A Complaint Free Dinner Hour

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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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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.

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Holli Seabury
CEO and Mother of Seven

National Drug Fact Week

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January 26-30 is National Drug Fact Week in the US. So why should you care?  Studies show that youth listen when you speak. They may not show great listening skills, or sit down quietly beside you while you talk, but they do listen and they do watch your behavior.

Across the nation, and here in Indiana, abuse of prescription medications by middle school, high school and college age students is increasing.   Prescription medications are the drug-of-choice for 12 and 13 year-olds, abused more commonly than any other drug.  Youth often perceive pain medications such as hydrocodone, fentanyl, or oxycodone to be less dangerous than other narcotic drugs like heroin or opium. Unfortunately, the effect on the brain is the same regardless of whether the narcotic is a prescription with specific instructions to follow, or purchased off the street.

Four in ten teens report that the prescription medication they used came from their parents’ medicine cabinet. Parents can reduce access to prescription medication by monitoring and securing their prescription medications and disposing of any expired or unused medications.

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) reports that talking to children about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and misuse goes a long way. Teens that had learned “a lot” or “a little” from their parents or grandparents about prescription medications were up to 42%   less likely to abuse prescription drugs than teens that reported learning “nothing.”  Family meals can be a perfect time to start that conversation about drug abuse.  Hints for starting the conversation (and making it a conversation and not a lecture!) can be found here.

Linda Hathaway
Director of Curriculum & Education and Mother of Six

Soup for One

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If I am not cooking a full meal for my family of four, I struggle with what to prepare. I am sure many of you can relate. Packing my lunch for work each day is the most difficult. Often I keep crackers and peanut butter or an instant cup of soup in my desk and eat that for lunch. When I see co-workers eating delicious lunches made at home, I wish I could plan and prepare better to do that as well. Not only are my lunches often not very appetizing or filling, but the soup especially, is lacking in nutritional value and has extremely high sodium, with more than half of what an adult is recommended to intake daily in just that one cup of soup.

Now that it is winter time and it has been pretty cold, I have wanted to eat soup more than ever at meal time. Instead of grabbing an instant cup of soup I decided to try some new recipes for homemade soup. One of those is a make your own instant noodle soup and store in a mason jar for freezing or easy transportation to work in a single serving.  I have also tried making a large pot at home and splitting it into several mason jars for freezing and use at a later date.  By making my own soups for lunch I am able to add more vegetables and less sodium for a healthier meal.

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

Happy Holidays!

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This Week’s Recipe
Bonus (Cookie) Recipe for this Week
Another Bonus (Cookie) Recipe for this Week

We are so thankful to have you as a supporter of the McMillen Center for Health Education. Whether you are a teacher, principal, not for profit, donor, or friend we appreciate you! Thank you for helping us have another successful year!

We know you are counting the days to a holiday break, and so are we, but if you were planning to make a year-end, tax deductible contribution to the McMillen Center, now is the time.

In the 2013.2014 school year we taught over 41,000 individuals the importance of making healthy choices for their amazing bodies – an increase from the previous year. Whether it is through our Family Table project that teaches the importance of families eating together, our anti-bullying programs, teaching preschoolers how to brush their teeth, or our homeschool programs, each message is important and with your support will continue in the community.

Enjoy the holidays with your family and enjoy a few of our favorite holiday cookie recipes.

Who Put the “Cran” in Cranberry?

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When I was growing up no holiday dinner was complete until the cranberries were on the table. In fact dinner was sometimes announced with the sound of the jiggling mass of jellied cranberry sauce whooshing out of the can and flopping onto a plate. But, as I have learned, it turns out cranberries do not grow as a gelatinous goo with ridges on the side which look strikingly like the inside of a can. I have also learned over the years, you don’t have to have a holiday meal to enjoy cranberries.

First, a quick history of one of the few fruits native to North America. When Europeans arrived on this continent the Native Americans of the north east had been using this berry for many things from dying clothes to treating illnesses. It was noticed by early European settlers the flower of this bog growing shrub looked like a crane, and thus the term “crane berry” was born, which was eventually shortened to cranberry. The cranberry first went to sea when sailors discovered it was great for helping to fight scurvy, because of its high vitamin C. On land cranberries were often made in to a sauce, paired with turkey, another native to North America, and served on special occasions (sound familiar?), by early Americans, Canadians and Europeans.

For many families the holiday table is where cranberries were relegated to, and that is where they stayed. But slowly as times change, and look for new and exciting flavors to bring to our families, the cranberry is leaving the formal table and joining us in more casual settings. Cakes, cookies, relish, and salads are all places this tart little wonder-berry is popping up. Maybe it is because more and more people are discovering how the great taste of cranberries is matched with how good it is for you, being full of vitamin C.

So remember, enjoying cranberries at the family table does not mean the once or twice a year sound of the jiggling mass of jellied cranberry sauce whooshing out of the can and flopping onto a plate. Cranberries are a great fruit for everyday, not just the holidays.

Scott Nitza

Scott Nitza
Graphic Designer & Marketing Associate and Father of Three

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