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Eat more meals at home

KathyKolasa
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Kathy Kolasa

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Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Q: Our pediatrician suggested we eat more meals at home. Can it really be that important? We just have too much going on to eat at home. — F.J., Winterville

A: I would encourage you to try to eat at least one meal a week at home with your children. Chelsea Viscardi, a second-year Brody medical student, will explain why. Here is what she wants you to know.

What does September mean to you? Fall? Back to school? Pumpkin everything? Whatever your thoughts were about September in the past, get ready to have a new one! It is officially National Family Meals Month. This is a movement that was started by the Food Marketing Institute in 2015 to increase the health of the nation. The institute’s stated goal is to support one more family meal at home per week throughout the month of September. Since National Family Meals Month began, it has been growing in popularity with support from grocers and food distributors. These participants attempt to make having a home-cooked family dinner more easily available to all members of the community.

The idea of promoting more family dinners came from research that suggests that people experience major health benefits from this tradition. Food prepared at home tends to be healthier. Eating together allows for family bonding that will benefit children as they develop. Members of families who eat most of their meals at home are less likely to be overweight or obese. In addition, children who eat more meals at home develop better relationships with their parents, perform better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, using drugs or drinking alcohol. The development of healthy habits early on in a child’s life will positively influence health decisions later.

To be a part of the movement, you should start to have more family dinners at home. While this may seem difficult, the Family Meals Month website has resources to help you along the way. There is a helpful tool for meal planning. Finding recipes and deciding what to eat for the week can be hard to fit into our busy lives. Most Americans decide what they are going to eat less than an hour before they eat it. This can lead to convenience eating, which is not always the healthiest choice.

The website also offers resources that suggest healthy, quick recipes for a family dinner. There are suggestions for affordable healthy meals. The website has a section called Cooking with Curtis, which lists family-friendly meals that can be prepared for less than $10. Exploring the resources available on this website should make the goal of one more family meal per week easier to reach for anyone who wishes to participate.

Personally, I am making an effort to have family dinner with my classmates more often this month. We have done this in the past with each person coming to dinner with a dish that he or she prepared. It brings us together as a class.

In your home, encourage your children to think of a healthy dish they could make themselves to contribute to dinner. Getting involved can be fun and beneficial for them. Those behind the movement suggest having the family involved in every step of the food preparation process. Children who go to the grocery store and are involved in creating the meal learn and remember healthy habits.

If you decide to get involved, you can connect with other participants and raise awareness about this issue through the National Family Meals Month social media presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. You can take a selfie with your family raising your hand wearing an oven mitt as part of the “Raise your Mitt to Commit” tagline of the movement. Use the hashtag #familymealsmonth on social media post about cooking or eating together as a family.

This month, consider making family meals a part of your life. This simple change can have a lasting impact on the physical, mental and social well-being of you and your children. To learn more, visit www.fmi.org/​family-meals-month/​about.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.

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