Health and Family Services Cabinet
Get Healthy Kentucky Encourages Families to Eat Together
Are you looking for a way to improve your children’s self-esteem, increase family unity and make sure your loved ones are getting the vitamins and nutrients they need in their diet?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, Get Healthy Kentucky encourages you to participate in National Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children. The event, observed by thousands of families across the country, will be Monday, Sept. 24, and encourages families to have dinner together as a way to stay closer and more connected.
“Frequent family meals are associated with less substance use, fewer depressive symptoms, healthier lifestyle choices and better grades,” said Wendy Carlin, program director for the obesity prevention program. “These are the building blocks of a healthy, well-balanced life – what we’re seeking for all Kentuckians through our Get Healthy Kentucky initiative.”
Eating with parents is also an important factor for the nutrition and eating habits of adolescents. According to GHK, family meals are associated with higher intakes of fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Adolescents who report frequent family meals are also more likely to have a healthy weight and less likely to develop poor eating habits.
With today’s busy lifestyles, it can be a challenge to eat meals together. GHK recommends these strategies to make it easier:
· Make family mealtime a priority. Schedule family meals for the week and write them on the calendar. If you know you can’t have a family dinner, make a date for a family breakfast.
· Keep it simple. Tuna sandwiches with sliced fruit can be made in minutes. Pasta and bottled spaghetti sauce with salad and bread make a great 30-minute meal.
· Get kids involved. Have them help with washing fruits and vegetables, setting the table or stirring ingredients. As they get older, ask them to be responsible for making one meal a month.
· Be creative and flexible about when and where you eat. You may decide to bring a picnic to the park near the soccer practice field. Or you may decide to have dinner later so everyone can eat together.
· Make mealtime fun for everyone. This is not a time to lecture or discipline. Keep conversations light and pleasant. Talk about the events of the day or daily news. Practice being a good listener. This is a great way to gain insight on how your kids think and what their interests are.
· Eliminate interruptions and distractions. No TV, no radio, no phone calls – let the answering machine pick up.
· Keep it a ritual. Weekday meals may change time, place and attendance. But try to have at least one meal that becomes a family ritual. For example, making various kinds of pancakes for Saturday breakfast each week will be a time that the entire family looks forward to and remembers fondly in years to come.
· Check out www.mealsmatter.org for more ideas.