The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “water”

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: 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: Heart Healthy Conversation

AHA Pinot Party promo image

This Week’s Featured Recipe

As you look around your family table at each person’s face, hopefully you can appreciate the differences that each person brings to your family. The things we have in common are often obvious. The ways we differ are often the most challenging. They also can make for great conversation! When our family sits down together, we often ask about each others’ day and what’s going on in the upcoming days. A couple of weeks ago, we ended up having a chat about ‘what is art’ and I can tell you, my kids had a strong opinion about what was not art! In a few weeks, the McMillen Center and the local American Heart Association are inviting you to a conversation about maintaining a healthy heart and a healthy lifestyle.

We all know that making healthy choices in diet and exercise can benefit in a longer healthier life. Putting it in practice can be a bit of a struggle for some (me included!) The American Heart Association Nutrition Center has several tips on how to make healthy choices at the grocery store, while cooking and when dining out. These simple lifestyle changes can help get you on the right track to a healthy life and a healthy heart. To make the learning a bit more fun, the McMillen Center for Health Education will be hosting the American Heart Association’s 2013 Pinot and Prevention party.

Please make plans to join us in learning about how to stay heart healthy with this women’s only, 21 and older, event on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are just $20.

Frances Brooks Casual 2012

Frances Brooks, Director of Operations & Marketing, wife and mom of 2

Tip of the Week: Goal Charts


This Week’s Featured Recipe

This year, our family has taken a different approach with New Year’s resolutions. It seems like resolutions are often difficult to stick to for an entire year.  So, instead of locking ourselves in for a year of something we really want to achieve but lose sight of somewhere in the midst of life, we have started family goal charts.

Goal charts are beneficial in keeping you on track to achieving your goals and letting you see your progress. It is nice to have the support of family and friends to help you stay on track. If they can see your progress, they can help keep you motivated, focused, and achieve their own goals along the way.

For our 4 year old son, we have included behavior goals, like eating all his dinner, brushing his teeth, cleaning up his toys and so on. Each day he completes a task or shows improvement he gets a sticker on his chart. At the end of the month, we review the chart and based on how many stickers he received, he will get a reward. When we discussed the chart with him over dinner one night he seemed open to the idea. His favorite part, of course, is the reward at the end. He was able to give me so many ideas for rewards for him – imagine that!

For my goal chart, I have included a healthy living goal. This includes eating better, losing weight, and getting in better shape. Progress in this category can be charted by amount of weight lost, time spent at the gym and keeping track of healthy meals I cook for my family. One of my new favorite things to do is take family meal suggestions and find ways to make it a healthier meal for us. Healthy living can be easy if you just take it one day at a time!

For more information about the Family Table online project visit our website!

Hannah Keith 2012

Hannah Keith, Marketing Assistant, wife and mom of two

Tip of the Week: Live Healthy Live Well

As you head out for the fall festival lineup that this part of the country is known for, here are a few tips from Live Healthy Live Well for making healthy choices:

Make sure you eat healthy in the days leading up to your trip, and eat a healthy breakfast before you go.

Wear comfortable walking shoes to encourage burning off any extra calories you and your family consume. The Fashion Police won’t be checking to make sure you have cute sandals on that look great, but kill your feet.

Pack a bag or small insulated cooler with water bottles, fresh fruit, cereal bars, pretzels, nuts, and fresh veggies in it. If you have a healthy snack, you won’t be so tempted to over-do at meal time. For example, freeze grapes or blueberries and pack them in an insulated bowl as an easy finger food to carry along.

Plan to refill your water bottle someplace at the festival – you will save lots of money and calories that way.

Scout out all of the food choices before you decide what to eat. Do this by walking around the area – you will burn more calories, and find out all of your choices.

Try your best to skip the fried foods. Do you really need to try the fried, batter covered cookie, buckeye, candy bar, or cheese?? If you have decided that you really need to try the new food – be sure to share or split the portion. Most funnel cakes will probably serve 4 to 6 people.

Look for a main dish or sandwich that is grilled or broiled. While you aren’t going to get a whole serving veggies by doing it, make sure you have the lettuce and tomato on your sandwich, it all adds up.

Skip the sundae or large milk shake this year and look for a fruit smoothie made with real fruit. But, be sure to get the small size without any whipped cream.

Most of all – have fun with your family! The sights at local festivals will make for great conversation starters in the weeks following. My kids are still talking about how they saw the cannon being shot at the Johnny Appleseed Festival!

Tip of the Week: Stay Hydrated

Mint (above), basil and lavender are all great additions to spice up your water.  Photo Courtesy of Culinary Concepts

In this heat, it’s been a bit harder to send the kids out to play, so we’ve been seeking alternative activities to do as a family. This week, that included a short road trip to hit the garage sales at the Lake. I don’t know about your family traditions, but I was raised to be a ‘bargain seeker.’ (Invariably this follows me to the grocery store as well, where my ‘stock-up-and-save’ gene kicks in all too well, but I digress!)

I am excited to teach my daughters this skill and this week’s trip included my mom, sister and a girlfriend and her kids – a four generation trip! Our challenge – the temperature outside. It’s been hard for all of us in the Midwest this summer. 20+ days of 90°F or higher!

We filled water bottles and took them with us. And, the kids had their bottles empty before we even were half-way there! The best way to stay hydrated is with pure water. Refill. Refill. Refill – it’s essential in this heat. If your kids aren’t great fans of plain water, consider flavoring it with fruit slices, herbs or veggies. Mint, pictured above, is a Southern favorite.

We arrived at one destination and they remembered us from another year when we shopped with them – we shared fond memories as we chatted about the new ‘generation’ shopping. Following all of this fun, a meal, of course! As we sat around eating our family lunch and celebrating our finds, it occurred to me that I treasure those memories with my grandmothers and aunts, most of whom are no longer with us to celebrate the bargains – but the significance of us eating together and doing those activities has started another generation of memories!

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