by The Puritan's Pride Editorial Team
It’s October. Time for corduroys, coats, costumes and candy, candy, candy! Sound about right to you? We would like to add some other “C” words onto your October list: connected, close-knit, cozy and cuisine.
Confused? Trying to figure out how cuisine corresponds to connected, close-knit and cozy?
What if we told you that October is “Eat Better, Eat Together” Month? Still a little perplexed? Let’s clear things up a bit.
The point of promoting “Eat Better, Eat Together Month” is to get your family to sit down and enjoy your meals, and each other’s company, on a regular basis. Findings suggest that each family member may benefit from this practice in many ways. And, it appears to have a very positive impact on adolescents.1
Actively participating in regular family meals helps give parents and other adult family members opportunities to teach children good manners, improve communication skills and lead by example. It’s an ideal time to reinforce good eating habits and promote good nutrition.
For some snack ideas, check out our Nutritious Foods
Other than the obvious benefits of promoting family closeness, studies show children may benefit in a myriad of other ways as well, including better grades, a decreased risk for unhealthy weight control practices, a decreased risk of substance abuse, and teens of families who frequently eat meals together exhibit a decreased likelihood of depression and thoughts of suicide. It seems that the simple act of eating dinner together can be an important way for children and parents to maintain connection.2 Children of families who often share meals at home also tend to spend more time on homework and reading for pleasure.3
It may also be noted that the home environment created amongst families who share activities and routines might also contribute to better eating habits that may continue into adulthood. These children are less likely to be overweight, and tend to eat fewer “empty” calories.4 Conversely, children from families who don’t dine together frequently tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume more soda and saturated fat.5
A good habit, that is. October is an ideal time to start a new routine, since you have had a few weeks to settle back into the schedule of school and extra-curricular activities. We understand you are busy and your family keeps you running around, but we believe that if you schedule family meals into your calendar, your family will thank you for it.
There are 2 ingredients needed for family meals: planning and preparation. Even if you just can’t manage to get everyone together every night for a sit-down dinner, plan at least a few meals per week, which could include breakfast every morning, brunch on weekends, or whatever works best for your family.
Check everyone’s schedule for his or her least busy nights and make an appointment with all the family members. No excuses, everyone shows up at the agreed upon time. If weekends are your only “free” days for meals, by all means, schedule your family meals for the weekends, even if that means some extra mouths at the table because your children are entertaining friends. Who knows, perhaps this may even inspire other families to join the movement.
Make-ahead meals are a great option for alleviating weeknight stress. One strategy is to cook two meals simultaneously on the weekends when you aren’t feeling as much of a time crunch. Refrigerate or freeze one for later in the week. Try a double-duty meal like using leftover roast beef to make wraps or quesadillas the next day. A little planning goes a long way.
Enlist the help of the family for choosing the menu and also preparing the meal. Give each child a task to make it happen. Little ones can help pick out produce at the grocery store and can also set the table and pour beverages. Older children can help slice veggies, grate cheese and pitch in with the cooking. Teens might even be able to cook an entire meal. The important thing is to get everyone involved and try not to treat meal preparation like a chore. It should feel more like a team activity. Keeping it positive reinforces that this time is meant for enjoying family togetherness.
No time for a sit-down meal because soccer, karate and flute lessons have you running in three different directions at dinnertime? On your ultra-busy evenings plan to share a make-ahead meal on the go. Try some simple wraps because they are easy to pack, can be made the day before and they travel well. Fill them with grated veggies and toss in a protein like cooked diced chicken, then spice them up with some fresh herbs, a bit of cheese or a little salad dressing. You can set up a picnic on the sidelines of the soccer field or use the tailgate of the minivan and enjoy your meal together. Don’t forget to pack some nutritious goodies for grab-and-go “eat-together” snacks.
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