In Defense of Family Meals

In Defense of Family Meals

The idea of a family meal is becoming a cultural anomaly. But, despite the increasing pace of life, don’t consider family meals anachronistic.

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Besides helping a family bond, shared meals can create healthy eating habits. Children who eat family meals are more likely to:

* * appreciate whole grains, fruits and vegetables

* * crave less junk foods.

* * indulge in mood-altering substances like marijuana, smoking, or drinking alcohol

Family meals serve three purposes:

1. They give the family time to bond.

2. They educate children about healthy food vs. convenient foods loaded with additives and preservatives.

3. They give parents an opportunity to model self-discipline, responsibility, and healthy eating habits.

Expect Resistance

Despite the many benefitsof family meals, expect to meet resistance. While younger children may enjoy hanging out with their parents, teenagers might resist. They are busy with school and sports, and they want to be with their friends and be more independent.

But many studies show that teenagers actually want to reconnect with their parents. Although they may behave rebellious, teens still need parental advice. When they are close to their families, they ask for ad hoc counsel.

How to Dissolve Resistance

If your children are resisting the idea of a family meal, here are 3 things to try:

1. Ask them to invite a friend over for dinner.

2. Involve them in planning and preparing meals.

3. Make family meals pleasant; avoid lectures and discourage quarrels.

But sometimes, the resistance is more than just a desire to be independent. It may be an attempt to hide an eating disorder.

3 Common Eating Disorders

There are a wide number of eating disorders. But three common ones are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

People with anorexia dread of getting fat. In their minds eye, they are never thin enough. To stay thin, they and go through extremes. They may eat calorie restricted diets. They may be obsessed with exercise. They may consume diet pills. And they may atone for eating too much by purging.

People with bulimia dread gaining weight. They try to control their weight through vomiting after a meal. They may try excessive exercising, fasting, or taking laxatives.

People with binge eating appear to be unable to control how much they eat. They often consume thousands of calories within a short period of time, and often eat when full.

3 Myths Around Eating Disorders

It’s often difficult to spot an eating disorder. Here are 3 common myths:

1. Only underweight people have an eating disorder. A person may appear to have normal weight. It may take time for the disorder to become evident.

2. Only teenage girls and young women have an eating disorder. But teenage boys and young men may also have an eating disorder. Prescott House explains some of the psychological stigmas attached to eating disorder treatment for men: “Eating disorders are not typically associated with men in our society, but we have encountered several men in our program over the years struggling with body image issues, binge eating issues, and excessive exercising issues. In more severe cases, we have encountered men with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other forms of eating disorders as well as men who use steroids. We have found that addressing issues with food and body image, along with balanced nutrition, can be crucial to a healthy recovery.”

3. Eating disorders are due to vanity. Someone who craves to look thin may be trying to repress uncomfortable feelings. They may be trying to mask feelings of helplessness, guilt, or anxiety.

Preparing Healthy Family Meals

Here are some guidelines on what to include or exclude from a healthy family meal:

What to include:

* * Vegetables with every meal.

* * Fruits when suitable, or as a snack.

* * A balanced meal with proteins, complex carbohydrates, and polyunsaturated fats.

* * Meals prepared in a healthy way. Roasting, grilling or steaming are the best cooking methods.

* * Meals with whole grain breads and cereals for fiber.

What to exclude:

* · Fried foods

* · Processed foods from a box or can.

* · Sugary foods from fruit-flavored drinks and sodas.

Family Dinners in Restaurants

Sometimes, the whole family may want to go out as a special treat or as a celebration. This does not mean that healthy eating has to forsaken.

Here are 3 tips to help make healthy choices in restaurants:

1. Spot red flags in the menu. Restaurants know that people like foods high in salt, sugar, and fat. Watch out for meals described as “creamy,” “fried,” “breaded,” “crispy,” or “smothered.” Only in healthy restaurants do you see words like “steamed,” “broiled” or “grilled.”

2. Customize the meal. You can remove unhealthy aspects of a meal. For instance replacing French Fries with baked potato or putting the sauce on the side.

3. Start with a soup or salad. Once you have something under your belt, you’ll crave the unhealthy dishes less.

Family Meals Anchor Family Life

Think of it this way:

* * Family meals offer a comforting ritual.

* * Family meals are a way for parents and children to spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere.

* * Family meals makes everyone feel part of a family.

It may be more convenient to eat and run. It may be easier to eat as a schedule allows. It may be simpler to just eat out. But, look at the big picture: family meals anchor family life.

Comments

  1. Sarah L says:

    When I was growing up we ALWAYS ate dinner together. And having kids help make the meal is a good thing.

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