The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “Tip of the Week”

5 Tips for Adjusting to College Life


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In August comes the time not only for young children and youth to get back to studying, but also those young adults who are attending college. Whether your student is going to college locally or away from home, there are always concerns that parents have. Here are some suggestions to help both you and your student adjust:

  1. Talk WITH them not just at them. Listen to what they have to say and ask open ended questions to get at what they are thinking. “What are you excited about?” “What are you anxious about?”
  2. Share stories of what was good about your school experience. Share stories about what was bad about your school experience – as well as what you would have done differently. Look for stories of other people’s experiences and share those stories – both good and bad. Our kids can learn from the experience of other people and our experiences without actually needing to go through it. Use the news to explain how great and how negative choices impact not only the person making the choice, but their family members, workplace and school.
  3. Remember your job as a parent is to get them ready to go out to be adults. Your actions and words have been the blue print for them to follow. If you feel you have done a great job then try to relax and let them know you will be available with suggestions if they need it. If you feel you have not done a great job, then be honest and help them to find resources in other adults or other services that can fill in the gaps of where you have left off.
  4. Encourage them to find resources on campus – tutoring, career centers, social groups that will help them to navigate the every changing world in which they will function.
  5. Be prepared to see them grow up into the cool adults they will be… Check out the site of the college where they are heading so that you know what resources you can send them to. Become educated yourself.

Take a big breath and try to relax and adjust. This is a big step for you as well as your student.

Linda Hathaway
Director of Curriculum & Education and Mother of Six

What’s in that lunch box? 5 Tips to Make Packed Lunches Healthier


Recipe of the Week

School is starting and parents all over are gearing up to pack school lunches. I have always had the perception that a lunch packed at home is healthier than what’s being served in the school cafeteria. Turns out that’s wrong – very wrong. A recent study from Tufts University  shows that on the average school day 41% of children are bringing a packed lunch from home, and most of those lunches are far less healthy than the cafeteria food being served. In fact, only 27% of the lunches reviewed met the same nutrition standards the cafeterias have to meet. Instead, most lunches packed at home were an assortment of snack foods and desserts.

I have to make a confession: I never pack my kids a school lunch. They actually love the school cafeteria lunches, which may not say too much about my cooking. My 8 year-old daughter sometimes packs her own lunch, but before it goes in her bookbag it has to pass my inspection to ensure it isn’t a lunch made up totally of junk. So from the research article and my own, albeit limited, experience packing school lunches, here are a few tips to make packed lunches healthier:

  1. The study found a big problem was sugary drinks in packed lunches. Pack water or have your child buy milk at school.
  2. Fruits and veggies are also lacking in most homemade lunches. Make a fruit or veggie requirement for each lunch – and work with your child to find fruit and veggies that they will enjoy eating and that won’t end up in the trash at school.
  3. Many homemade lunches lacked a protein-rich entrée item and were mainly carbs and sugar. Even something as simple as a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread is a healthy kid-friendly choice. My kids also love yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and cheese.
  4. Encourage your kids to pack their own lunches. Have a “Healthy Lunch Checklist” they can follow that includes fruits and veggies, a protein, water, etc. I allow one snack or dessert item in the lunch and am clear with my daughter about what I consider a dessert serving – one cookie, not five cookies! Letting kids pack their own lunch makes it more likely that they will eat it and teaches them the valuable skill of how to create a healthy meal for themselves.
  5. Make it a rule that a parent checks the lunch before it goes in the bookbag.

Need ideas for healthy packed lunches? Pinterest comes to the rescue with 100s of healthy school lunch ideas!


Holli Seabury
CEO and Mother of Seven

Tip of the Week: Fresh Fruits and Vegetables


Recipe of the Week

I was at a conference recently and I got into a very heated “discussion” with a vendor who was representing a processed fruit product. He was telling everyone who walked by that this highly processed fruit was perfect for preschoolers because they would love the brightly colored packaging and the processed fruit tasted better than real fruit! Plus, it had a shelf life of two years!

So what was my issue with this whole sales pitch? Here’s my issue: we live in a country where childhood obesity and diabetes in children is at epidemic proportions. Part of this problem is due to children eating so much processed food. We all need to work hard to teach young children what real fruit and vegetables are, and how they should be the biggest part of a healthy diet. Do kids love super-sweet fruit products with bright packaging? Yes! But they are nowhere near as healthy as real fruit and vegetables, in their natural state.

So how can we help our children to eat real, unprocessed foods? The most important thing we can do is to serve real fruits and vegetables at each meal. I define a real fruit or veggie as something that looks like it did when it grew in the ground or on the tree. There are no trees with brightly colored packaging growing on them!

Establishing the habit of eating real fruits and veggies with every meal makes it much more likely that your children will enjoy eating healthy foods. Today I was packing my 6 year-old son’s lunch for day camp and I asked him what fruit he wanted. He said, “I don’t need fruit.” I told him that wasn’t an option and that his lunch wouldn’t be healthy without fruit (I also told him his older sister would be watching while he ate lunch!) I gave him a few options, and he thought about it and chose apples slices as his fruit. My children see me eat lots of fruit and veggies, so this is the norm in our family, and I talk to them frequently about how I try to make healthy choices.

It’s important to let children have some control over what they eat. Ask them to choose the veggie for dinner or what foods they want for lunch. This gives you a great opportunity to talk about how to make healthy choices and how sometimes we may want to eat certain foods, but they aren’t healthy, so we eat them only once in a while. When children are shopping with you, let them pick some new fruits and veggies to try. There are some exciting, exotic fruits at our grocery stores – give some a try! Children are much more likely to eat foods they have chosen and allowing them to make food choices as a child prepares them to make healthy choices when they are older.


Holli Seabury
CEO and Mother of Seven

Tip of the Week: Fourth of July Celebration

Kids watching Fireworks

Recipe of the Week

For many the 4th of July means not just celebrating our country’s independence, but time at the lake with family and friends, backyard barbeques, and of course, fireworks. This holiday really has no age limit because there are so many different things to go outside and do. This past Saturday night the home behind ours was putting on quite the fireworks show and my son asked to leave his window blinds open to watch the show before he fell asleep. I decided to curl up next to him to watch the show too. Fireworks sure are beautiful to watch and since you only get to see them for a short time each year I didn’t mind letting him stay up a little bit later.

As you start to plan your holiday weekend fun, think of healthier safe ways to have fun, too. On the Family Table Pinterest page we found some healthy recipes, like a delicious red, white, and blue fruit skewer.  My son helped me look for a fun recipe, and we love fruit in our house, so it is perfect. Fruit skewers are simple and delicious and would be great to take to a backyard barbeque.

From all of us at the McMillen Center, enjoy this holiday weekend with your family and friends!

Bethany Clapper, Director of Development & Marketing and mother of two



Tip of the Week: Summer Bucket List


Recipe of the Week

This was certainly a long, hard winter and while we were stuck inside, my family talked a lot about all the fun summer things we wanted to do. I spent some time looking up parks, sports activities, and new outdoor games we could play together. Many of my friends and social media feeds were talking about making a “Summer Bucket List.” First on our list was outside summer sports. We have registered my son for a summer sports program, of his choice, and all the outdoor toys that were stored in the garage quickly came out.

Once we started thinking about items to add to our list, I started seeing several social media sites on the same topic. Instead of creating something new, I decided I would use the great Summer Bucket List created by LeAnn Nome, who blogs as Real Fit Real Food Mom. I added a few new activities that I know my family will really enjoy doing together, and we are ready for summer fun! Come over to our Facebook page where we would love to hear about the exciting activities you have added to your Summer Bucket List!

Bethany RG Clapper
Director of Development and mother of two

Tip of the Week: Keep Drinking (Water)



Recipe of the Week

The sun is out – finally! As our family traveled this past weekend, sunshine was out in force.  Sunscreen was both needed and applied multiple times.  We also planned ahead to stay hydrated! Water is the best source for keeping your family moving at top speeds.  On hot summer days, the most refreshing drink is simple water.

Tap water is a free choice, which often includes fluoride for strengthening teeth.  Tap water with fruit ice cubes makes a quick, homemade bottled water.  Or, if you are going to be traveling, freeze about half a bottle of water with your favorite veggies or herbs – mint or cucumber make a wonderfully refreshing drink.  Then, when packing your picnic, just add fresh tap water to top it off – this way it remains cool for those hot summer days of playing in the sun!

With all of the advertising for activity drinks, or easy beverage mixes, it can be easy to get too many extra calories from beverages.  The soda or flavored coffee you drink with your meal can add upwards of 500 calories – a large shake is even more! An affordable and easy substitute replacement might be a fruit or vegetable flavored water.  There are hundreds of ideas on Pinterest, like Rosemary Orange flavored water.  We have pinned a couple on our Family Friendly Recipes board!


Frances, Director of Operations & Business Development and Mom of 2

Tip of the Week: Picnic Family Fun!


Recipe of the Week

Wow, Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching! Finally, after the long winter months and a budding spring, the “official start of summer” is just around the corner.

This time of year always makes me think of my years growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania. Mom was always eager for summer weather and the start of summer break from school. Memorial Day weekends, as well as several other days over the summer, were lazy days full of family, friends and picnics. My mom loved a good picnic! At times she went all out with planning food for the picnic. From different salads and vegetable dishes to pulling out the charcoal grill, the food was good and plentiful.  At those times, the backyard was full of adults and children talking and having a good time.

My other memory is of other smaller picnics. Sometimes just Mom and we kids, or on weekends, Dad would join us. They would wake us up in the morning and say, “Girls, get out of bed. We are going on a picnic today!” Those were the best picnics! Usually the food on these days was a little simpler. Mom packed what we had in the refrigerator. Egg salad or peanut butter sandwiches, carrots and celery sticks and some kind of summer fruit like fresh peaches or a melon she had cut that morning. The food was always different, but always tasted great when enjoyed on a blanket outside! As kids, we had the job of packing our toys or things to do for the day. At times we would need our swim suits, but we usually always took a Frisbee, whiffle bat and ball, and even a deck of cards.

Now as an adult, I look back and remember these days as some of the best times with my family. Just being together, talking and laughing while enjoying our meal and getting to spend time with Mom and Dad, playing games and running around! Those simple, sometimes spontaneous times were the best!

I have kept up the picnic tradition with my own family. I take a simple picnic lunch to sporting events my children are in or, on a long vacation drive we pack a sack lunch to eat at a rest stop. My teenagers already laugh and share stories of some of their favorite family picnic memories! It doesn’t take much to make or plan the picnic but the fun memories are plentiful!

Twila Smith
Administrative Assistant, Mom of 2

Tip of the Week: Mother’s Day


Recipe of the Week

Mother’s Day evokes a memory of pretty spring dresses and baskets of flowers.  Each and every May of my childhood, I can remember going with my parents to the plant nursery to pick out a hanging basket of bright purple and pink fuchsia plants.  These would be delivered to each of my grandmothers for Mother’s Day and would hang on their porches for the remainder of the summer.  Both of them had green thumbs, much like my mother, who maintains beautiful gardens each year.  Somehow, I fell off the turnip truck and cannot seem to grow a Snake Plant, let alone baskets of rich color near my front door. Thank goodness my children are interested in developing their own abilities in the garden (although I do wish my oldest would stay out of the poison ivy!)

Investigative and imaginative, my oldest daughter’s garden is a blend of rocks, flowering plants and moss that she found somewhere – I keep hoping this is all heirloom plants from our own yard and not the neighbors’!  She is keenly interested in seeds of all kinds.

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I often find her pockets full of treasures that she intends to plant and harvest later this year.  Laundry days are never boring at our house!  I believe the cicada “shells” she gathered a couple of years ago were the “best” surprise.

And that is how mothering goes, isn’t it?  We nurture the brightest parts of their personality and surround them with the nutrients of family meals, good conversation, valuable skills, and enrich them with important truths.  Along the way, they pick up items they value.  Then, on “laundry day,” we help them to sort through these finds, determining what we hope will culture their best and brightest blooms.  In the midst of the process, it is sometimes difficult to see the success of our efforts.  But on Mother’s Day, I encourage you to take at least a few minutes this year to stop and smell the flowers.  Those blooms are the product of the hours and hours we have engaged in developing those within our area of influence.  Maybe consider visiting your local greenhouse to see what you and your family can grow together!


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

Tip of the Week: Community Health


Recipe of the Week

The McMillen Center for Health Education believes that everyone in our community, young and old, deserves to have a healthy life. Through our Family Table Tip of the Week, we promote healthy eating and family togetherness. We receive support to make this project possible from individuals, corporations, schools and many others. We want to take this opportunity to thank the community for their ongoing support. One of the ways we say thank you is by honoring others who work hard to make this community healthier at our Vitality Awards event. The Vitality Awards, on May 15 from 11:30 am – 1 pm at the Landmark Centre, will honor individuals working to create a vital, healthy community in the areas of health education, wellness and prevention.  We would love to see you there!  Take a look at this year’s deserving nominees.

Tickets for this event are still available at

For this week’s healthy recipe we are featuring a Grilled Chicken Cranberry Salad. This is the salad that will be served at the Vitality Awards luncheon. The salad includes grilled chicken strips, dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles, chopped celery, pecans on assorted greens served with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Enjoy!

Bethany Clapper, mom of 2
Director of Development

Tip of the Week: Sexting & Texting


Recipe of the Week

Technology today is a very cool means to stay in touch with people you don’t see on an everyday basis.  It can instantaneously connect family members and it has changed how we as human beings interact while apart.  However, today’s modern technology can also have negative consequences for youth.   Most parents have heard of the term “sexting”.  Sexting is the exchange of nude or sexually suggestive images from one device to another.  Sexting may be consensual, and sexts may be sent back and forth from two people, or sexts may be sent only from one person to the other.  As a mom, this sends all sorts of scary thoughts into my head as far as the long-term consequences.

In videos and in TV shows, sexting is often portrayed as being a casual interaction between two people and portrayed as if it has no consequences. The truth is that someone under eighteen who takes a sexual picture, even of themselves, and sends it to someone can be charged with producing and distributing child pornography.  If the receiver then forwards the image to someone else, the receiver can also be charged with distributing child pornography.  The person who has the image in their device (phone, PC, laptop, tablet, etc.) is considered to be the owner of that image and can be implicated.  Even if the image is deleted from the screen, the image is still in the internal memory of the device.

Apps such as snapchat or kik are promoted as a way to send an image that will disappear after a few seconds. If the receiver knows how to save a screen shot, the receiver will be able to store that image forever in the memory of the device.  The sender ends up having NO control over who does or does not see the image or where it will go.

Talk to the children in your life about rules to use technology for all members of the family.  Dock phones at bed time to promote good sleep and decrease bad middle of the night decisions.  Place phones, TV and monitors out of sight during meal times so there is less distraction.  Have a device free day one day a week or once or twice a month to encourage family members to talk to each other face to face.

Keep eating with your family three times a week to help ensure your children will know you are interested in their lives and that they can trust you to listen when they need to talk.

Linda_Hathaway - 2012

Linda Hathaway
Director of Education & Curriculum

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