Focus on Family

This time of year we see lots of post-New Year’s Resolution “skinny talk” on nearly every magazine cover, and commercial after commercial of ads, weight loss pills, programs and packaged meals/supplements. It’s hard not get discouraged sometimes by these glamourized ads of celebrities & commoners telling us how much weight they lost in just 2 weeks.

As a registered dietitian, I recommend you think about not only yourself and your eating habits, but to focus on balanced meals and examples you may set for your family, friends, kids and colleagues. With that in mind, I encourage all of us to get back to the basics and plan a meal at home.

Meal planning does not have to mean gourmet meals and hours of slaving in the kitchen. Rather, in our fast-paced and multi-tasked lives, it means taking a few moments out of our day to sit down, relax, and taste and enjoy some quality food to nourish our mind and bodies (and making good use of leftovers!).

Over the summer I attended a conference on the importance of family meals. The research shows that in families who eat at least 5 meals together per week (ideally), the family mealtimes:

• help foster family togetherness
• help prevent behavior problems
• help children do well in school
• help improve children’s nutrition
• help prevent weight problems (lowering the incidence of both eating disorders and obesity in children)

And really, isn’t this the goal? To help our kids and loved ones develop healthy eating habits and food relationships free of dieting, guilt, restriction and the language of “good vs. bad” foods? Sadly, the number of adults I see who started dieting and the young age of 10 or 12 years old is astounding. Let’s work to change the dieting mentality to one of making mealtimes fun. Get kids involved with cooking or even growing their own herbs and produce to use in family meals. Help kids take an active role in mealtime conversation and instead of talking calories, point out what vitamins and minerals are in the foods and what health function they play in our bodies. Here’s a chart to get you started:

Get kids involved in clean-up after dinner, dividing leftovers for lunches, or planning what new foods to try at dinner the next night. According to child feeding expert, Ellyn Satter, adults are responsible for what foods and beverages are served and where the meals are served, and children are responsible for deciding whether to eat and how much to eat while learning age-appropriate table manners and mealtime behaviors as they grow older (reference Ellyn’s books: Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming and Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family). The age of the “clean your plate!” club is over, and instead we’re trying to educate both adults and children on how to identify and respond to their individual hunger and fullness cues.

For more resources, ideas on how to start enjoying more family meals, and ways to help influence the development of well-nourished and active kids, visit the following websites:

Courtesy of Kristine Van Workum, LifeShape Registered Dietitian