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Dietitians Dish: Make time to eat together this summer

By By Elizabeth Summerfeld
June 25, 2013 at 1:25 a.m.


Summer is said to be a time for fun and relaxation. However, with family vacations, summer camps, vacation Bible school, swim lessons, T-ball practice and games, summer does not seem to be that relaxing in my house. Although we are busy running from here to there this summer, as a family, we still try to sit down for a family meal some time during the day.

It does not always have to be a dinner meal; sometimes, breakfast may be the least rushed time during the summer. A study from Harvard University shows that children and adolescents who eat meals with their family at least three times per week consume:

More fruits and vegetables

More fiber, calcium, iron, vitamins B6, B12, C and E

Less fried food and soda

Less saturated fat and trans fat

Family mealtimes also provide a great opportunity to teach good nutrition and model healthy eating as well as spend more time together as a family. Many children look to their parents as role models, so this is a good time to practice what you preach.

If you are encouraging your children to eat healthy, first take a look at your plate to make sure you are doing the same thing. Studies show that children who eat meals with their family are more likely to be in a normal weight range and have healthier eating patterns.

So, how do you find time to sit down and enjoy a family meal when you are running all over the Golden Crescent area? Step one is to make a plan. Use a calendar or dry-erase board to write out the meals you are going to eat at home.

Try finding recipes online or in cookbooks or magazines that you can experiment with on these days. Involve your family in this meal planning.

Often times, children are more likely to eat new things if they picked them or helped prepare them. Step two would be to keep it simple. Find prewashed or precut products to cut down on meal prep time. Use frozen vegetables or fruits, canned products (low sodium or canned it is own juice or light syrup). Also some vegetables such as potatoes and onions can store for a long time.

Find items that cook quickly such as quinoa and whole wheat couscous, which can be cooked in less than 10 minutes. Choose chicken tenders versus chicken breasts as these will cook quicker.

Step three is to prepare ahead of time. Find days that nothing else is scheduled on or maybe weekends to try and prep foods in advance. Or use the cook once, eat twice method.

Making double portions of items like casseroles and freeze the extras. Make the most of heating up the oven, so if you are cooking something in the kitchen, throw in some baked potato or sweet potato to use for a potato bar another night.

The final step is to be flexible. Family meal time doesn't necessarily have to take place around your kitchen table every night. It could be in the car or at a restaurant. Packing meals to go in the car can be fun and a different way to have your family time meal.

Try new wrap or sandwich recipes using whole-grain carbohydrates and chopped veggies. Consider family meals as not only a time to catch up with your family but to try a new recipe and eat healthy, too.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is the Clinical Nutrition Manager/Bariatric Coordinator at DeTar Healthcare Systems. She is a registered and licensed dietitian and has a master of science degree. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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