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Aug 29

Healthy Habits Start at Home: Instilling Nutritional Values Through Family Meals

Posted on August 29, 2023 at 3:07 PM by Jennifer Ambrose

Healthy Habits Start at Home: Instilling Nutritional Values Through Family Meals

Happy Back to School, Lenawee!  School is back in session and there is something wonderful about being back on schedule, even if it does make family life more complicated.  That dreaded question: “What’s for dinner?” will start haunting the dreams of the adults in your household. What is for dinner?  And why is it required every single night?

tired mom

Family dinners can be magical.  Providing a designated time for the family to come together, share stories, discuss their day, and connect on a personal level, can strengthen your family bond. Amid your busy schedules, it is a carved-out time to put away distractions and communicate.  Children learn etiquette, conversation skills, and table manners, teens learn to address conflicts and disagreements in a calm and supportive manner, and the sense of support can contribute to improved mental health for every family member.

Mindful Eating, Healthy Living

When meals are prepared at home, they are often more balanced and nutritious than fast food or takeout.  McDonalds is not McHealthy, despite what the ads may say. Family dinners offer an opportunity to include a variety of food and essential nutrients, and healthier cooking methods.

turnip for what

Sadly, about 1 in 5 American children has obesity. Compared with healthy weight, children with obesity are at a higher risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and heart disease. Adopting healthy eating patterns as a family helps children reach and maintain a healthy weight as they age.  And this can start with dinner!

Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein foods, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products follows nutrition guidelines and sets your family up for optimal health.

The Family That Cooks Together, Stays Together

Involving children in meal preparation and clean-up teaches them responsibility, teamwork, and basic life skills. When kids take an active role in choosing recipes, shopping for ingredients, and helping in the kitchen, they develop a deeper appreciation for the food and its journey from farm to table.

i love it

Give each child a different role each week, choose new fruits and vegetables to try, and watch their cooking skills develop.  Eventually, the teenagers can even plan and prepare a meal for the family on their own one night a week!  (And wouldn’t that be amazing)

Safety First

An important part of cooking at home as a family is making sure everyone is staying safe.  Explain to everyone the importance of washing hands thoroughly before handling food and between tasks. If you touch your face, wash your hands. If you touch raw meat, wash your hands.  If you touch a toy, your sister, or another part of your body, wash your hands.   Basically, when in doubt, WASH YOUR HANDS.

wash your hands

Keep work surfaces and utensils clean, and properly wash your fruits and vegetables before preparing. Teach them about cross-contamination, illustrating how to use separate cutting boards for different types of ingredients to prevent the transfer of harmful bacteria.

You can bring in a science lesson while talking about the correct temperatures for cooking different meats, or while talking about the refrigerator or freezer’s role in keeping foods fresh.  Engaging them with interactive activities such as creating a “food safety checklist” or having them go on an expiration date label hunt in your pantry or fridge.

While having family dinners every single night may not always be feasible due to various commitments, striving to have them as often as possible can yield numerous positive outcomes for the entire family.  And for those nights that schedules collide? Try prepping for them in advance (like on the weekend), and engage the family in the planning and preparation.  That way when they grab that dinner to go and eat it on the way to this practice or that game, they might appreciate the work that went into it a little bit more!


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