Creating Family Glue - Meal Times, All the Time
It's "back to school" time and those "lazy days of summer" are suddenly in the past.  The busy schedules of your children coupled with your work day may find there is suddenly little time for the family meals or even talking with them. This month on "It's about You..."Jill Harris, Todd Co Extension Agent for Family & Consumer Science and mother of two boys gives us insight on the importance of being a leader in the home and establishing routines for the whole family.

Despite hectic schedules, family meal times are key to good health.....and they create the family glue. Research shows that children perform better in school and maintain healthy weights when family meals are part of their routine.

The importance of school teachers and coaches as mentors in a child's life is well documented, but parents should be the most importance teachers. Parents can establish themselves as a leader within the home using the following techniques:

  • Learn to say "no"
  • Look at things from your child's point of view
  • Tell your child "what to do", not "what not to do"
  • Be friendly, but not your child's best friend
  • Establish routines, especially at meals

Children of all ages like routine so they know what to expect. Establishing routine meal times that the family can enjoy begins by looking at the best times for all and giving everyone a task; connect at least two to three times weekly if daily is not possible and make meal time fun- talk without the TV!

Routine meals can be quick and healthy when you plan ahead and keep staples in your freezer and pantry. Use the weekend to check grocery store specials and plan weekly menus. Keep healthy foods on hand such as frozen or canned vegetables; whole grain pastas, beans, peanut butter; adding fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Using equipment like a Crockpot, food processor or blender, and a microwave can speed the preparation of the family favorites.

Even when meals are well planned, the time around the table can be tense when children refuse to eat prepared meals. To keep meals enjoyable for all try the following tips:

  • Start with you, the parent! Be a good role model-eat healthy
  • Allow your child a choice of equal nutritional value
  • Don't use food as a reward/punishment
  • Never require a child to clean their plate
  • Stay calm!

September is Family Meal Month so now is the time to start! Remember be a leader for your children, establish routines, and make meal time- family time, the route to healthy homes!

Meal Time Family Time Releated publication and other resources can be found on the Family and Consumer Sciences website.