The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “lifestyle”

A Complaint Free Dinner Hour

short_order

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

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What Grade Does Fast Food Get You?

fast_food_grade

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

Soup for One

soup_jar

This Week’s Recipe

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.

BethanyClapper_2012

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

Who Put the “Cran” in Cranberry?

cranberries

This Week’s Recipe

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

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.”

Souper Easy

souper

This Week’s Recipe

A couple weeks ago, a few girlfriends and I got away for the weekend. Our spouses and kids stayed at home. We took off for a lake cottage. 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 easy!

  1. We turned off our cell phones and left the other electronic devices that guide (demand) our time. I admit, I did check it each night before turning in, and 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 crock-pot.
  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 friends who made the time to reconnect.

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.

Frances_Brooks-2012

Frances Brooks

Director of Operations & Business Development and Mother of Two

Sweet Potatoes… No Sugar Needed!

sweet_potato

Recipe of the Week

I have always thought of sweet potatoes as not being very healthy and that the texture was too mushy and gooey. Probably because I think of them as having marshmallows on top and that does not excite me. As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, for as long as I can remember, each year I give sweet potatoes a try and each year I am not a big fan. Everyone else around the dinner tables likes the sweet potato casserole, so I continue to make it and let the rest of the family enjoy.

A few weeks ago a friend was telling me how she is being more conscious of what she feeds her family. She shared a recipe for a sweet potato casserole that did not include putting marshmallows on top. As we sat down to dinner with our families she put some sweet potatoes on my plate. Once again I gave them a try, and to my surprise they were delicious! I know our tastes in foods change, but I was so surprised that I liked these and that I was looking forward to trying them again soon. An added bonus was that my husband and both my children liked them too!

After that evening I decided to learn a little bit more about this vegetable. A four ounce serving of sweet potatoes provides:

  • 390% of our daily value of vitamin A
  • 40% of vitamin C
  • 18% of fiber
  • 13% of potassium

plus vitamin E, iron, magnesium and much more.

I went onto Pinterest and looked for some recipes to try at home and I shared them on the McMillen Center Pinterest page, too. Enjoy trying something new with your family!

BethanyClapper_2012

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

Dining for Two: Six Easy Steps

dinner_for_two

Recipe of the Week

Do you love to cook? Are there two of you at home that enjoy trying new recipes and new flavors together? When you have a busy schedule and you don’t feel like cooking a large meal for just the two of you, don’t just settle for leftovers, frozen dinners, or cereal. It is the perfect opportunity to take a little bit of planning time and enjoy experimenting with new recipes, like this delicious apple pork chop recipe.

Try these six easy steps to make cooking for two easy, fun and healthy.

  1. Make a Plan: Each week write down a weekly menu.
  2. Stock the Pantry: Always have the essentials on hand, like canned goods and dried foods.
  3. Fill Your Freezer: Buy in bulk during sales and freeze in single portions.
  4. Cook and Freeze: Cook a larger meal and freeze leftovers in single portions for those busy nights.
  5. Prepare One-dish Meals: Cook a dish that has several food groups, like a chicken stir fry with veggies served over rice.
  6. Extras: Use food from previous night’s meals, such as cooking a whole chicken on Sunday and using the meat during the week to make burritos or a chicken salad.

Need additional ideas on cooking for two? Visit us on Pinterest for more recipes.

BethanyClapper_2012

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

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