The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “relationships”

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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This Week’s Recipe

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

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 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

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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.

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Frances Brooks

Director of Operations & Business Development and Mother of Two

Trying New Foods this Fall

Quite little graphic of an apple tree in fall

Recipe of the Week

As fall approaches, my husband and I have discovered that this is a great time of year to visit our local farmers markets or stop by a roadside stand selling produce. At this time of year you will find many root vegetables such as potatoes, yams, turnips and parsnips. You may also find bags of onions, cabbage, pumpkins or beautiful mums.

I find the meals I am cooking start to change this time of year, too. I start looking for recipes that use more of the vegetables listed above, things that are hearty but still easy to cook, and I try using our crockpot more often. This week’s Apple Kielbasa recipe is one of our favorites and is easy and versatile. Enjoy trying this mix of fall flavors!

Twila Smith
Administrative Assistant and Mother of Two

Dining for Two: Six Easy Steps

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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.

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

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