What does that mean for you? Is it grabbing some food and eating in front of a TV, is it picking up take-out on the way home from Junior’s late basketball practice, or is it dinner around the table with your family- perhaps chicken with mac & cheese and broccoli and a glass of milk?
Increased frequency of family meals has been associated with increased intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods, and decreased soft drink consumption (1). In addition, having more meals together as a family may reduce chance for disordered eating behaviors (2), and curtail other high-risk behaviors among adolescents (3).
The kitchen table is a wonderful place to build relationships, nourish the body, and rewind after a long day.
As part of my graduate program, I am working with a West Virginia early childhood obesity prevention project called Choose to Change.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a “Family Fun Night”, where families simply came to a community center for a free meal, and engaged separate activities for kids and adults, promoting the importance of family meal time.
The tables were set and waiting for families to arrive.
The benefits of family meal time aren’t about a beautiful table setting or fancy courses. It’s simply having people together, talking and sharing life with one another.
However, we did put a bit of extra effort into creating some masterpiece centerpieces- turkeys crafted out of melons, grape skewers, and pepper slices.
After the meal, I hung out with the little preschoolers. We had fun activities like a relay race to set the table, and bean bag games where some colors were “healthy foods” and others were just “sometimes” foods.
Choosy, the mascot for the program, showed up. This was a huge hit with the kids. I managed to get a picture with him too!
Family meals were always a priority in my home growing up, and I’m incredibly thankful that my parents chose to make these evening rendezvous an essential part of our day. I learned a lot around the kitchen table.
As a college student, family-style meals can’t always happen, so I’m even more thankful when they do occur.
These past 6 weeks I have been completing a clinical rotation about 2 1/2 hours from where my apartment is. I’ve been blessed by living with a great couple here, who have graciously opened their home to Emily and I. Here we are, enjoying a family-style meal together. A bit of Thanksgiving dinner and sparkling cider at the dining room table- this didn’t happen every night, but we did enjoy eating dinners together when able.
It’s hard to believe that this clinical rotation has come to a close already. Good-bye, Charleston!