Fredericksburg Parent


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Hey Mom BY BRANDY CENTOLANZA Families who sit down and eat supper together at home are more likely to eat healthier, since they are more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables and eat less trans fat, thus lessening risk for obesity and heart disease. Other studies show that teenagers who dine with their families have better grades, communicate better with their parents and are less likely to be depressed or suicidal, use drugs or alcohol, or develop eating disorders. A Slowing Down to Enjoy One Another Family dining is important for children at any age. It helps build a stronger relationship with their mother, father and siblings and helps them develop a better appreciation for food. "If food is viewed as something to be gobbled down while standing, watching TV, at a fast food joint or in the car hopping from event to event, it cheapens food in our lives," explains Debra Schleef, a sociology professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Mary Washington. "We also do not eat as well and this is related to the increase in obesity and diabetes in our society." Though Schleef realizes that family demands, such as work, school, extra-curricular activities and other obligations limit the time family members can spend with each other, she is a proponent of dining together as often as possible. "If you are sitting down to dinner every night, you are spending more time together," says Schleef. "If you are spending only one or two nights at dinner and you expect that to be quality time with nice manners, good food and flowing conversation, it is not going to happen, especially with young children or teenagers. You need time for the spills, the fights, the whining and the picky eaters. It is all part of the messiness of families. It is probably the only time of the day when many families are all together. Adds Holly Schiffrin, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, "Eating meals together is an important 14 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • September 2012 s life becomes busier for moms and dads and their children, family dining has fallen by the wayside, though research shows that finding time to eat together has many benefits. What's For Dinner? The Importance of Family Dinners Here are Some Ways to Make Dining Together as a Family FUN and SPECIAL: Designate a Special Plate for Accomplishments. Johnny got an A on a test? Susie got the lead in the school play? Dad got a big promotion at work? That night, serve their meal on a special plate in celebration of the honor. Have an Indoor Picnic. Lay a blanket on the family room floor and have an indoor picnic. Little ones will enjoy inviting some favorite stuffed animals to the picnic. Mix It Up Try having breakfast for dinner one night, or eating dinner courses backward with dessert being served first. Surely, that will be a hit with the kids! Make It Make-Your-Own Set up a taco or nacho bar with all the fixings and have each family member make their own meal. Set out various toppings for pizza night or try make- your-own shish kabobs with different meats and veggies to satisfy everyone's cravings. Break Out The China Don't save the good dishes for a special occasion. Try serving Sunday dinner actually at the dining room table, complete with the fancy tablecloths, napkins and china.

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