Make Some Time for Family Mealtime
| Posted On Mar 05, 2018 | By: Janine Clifford-Murphy, RD
March is National Nutrition Month, so you may see an uptick in advice from nutritionists wherever you turn. You probably already know the drill: eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats…easy to put on paper, harder to do in real life.
One way to get started – one way with real, scientifically proven benefits – is family meals. These do not necessarily need to be family dinners, but any meal that gets family members seated at the table, without the distraction of TV, computers or phones, has true benefits beyond the vitamin and mineral content.
Experts tell us that children who eat family meals are less overweight or obese, have less disordered eating, and eat fewer unhealthy foods like fried food, soda and sweets. Young children learn to eat more fruits and vegetables and have less picky eating behavior. Teens who have frequent family meals have better academic performance, have a reduced risk to start smoking or use alcohol or drugs, and experience less depression.
Family meals get all the senses operating, and perhaps the most important one is conversation. Young children improve their vocabularies. Everyone at the table can share values, ideas, and solutions to problems. Traditions are formed and kept alive. Sharing meals together instills a sense of security. Everyone benefits from family meals: children, parents, and our community.
Here are some keys to making family meals work:
- After work and school, everyone is tired and hungry. Have a healthy snack ready (for example, a few carrots and hummus, a couple of whole grain crackers and a half cup of milk, or a sliced cucumber and ranch dressing) to serve while dinner is being prepared.
- Plan ahead and cook and freeze soups, stews and casseroles to reheat and enjoy on super busy evenings.
- Offer the same meal to everyone, even the picky eaters. Just include one or two foods you know everyone likes. Family meals help children accept new foods more readily.
- Get everyone involved in planning and preparing the meal. Ask your child to suggest a meal that includes 3 components: a source of protein, a grain or starch, and a fruit or vegetable.
Need more help? Contact one of our Atrius Health Nutritionists to learn how to make family meals part of your routine. The following is a list of our nutritionists with their specialties and practice locations:
- Janine Clifford-Murphy, Harvard Vanguard Quincy. She is a certified diabetes educator and she specializes in digestive health, diabetes, eating disorders, weight management and family nutrition.
- Lisa Ferreira, Harvard Vanguard Copley and Medford. Her specialties include digestive disorders, food intolerance, eating disorders, weight management, and pediatric nutrition.
- Carol Haladyna, Dedham Medical Dedham. She is a certified diabetes educator for adult and pediatric patients.
- Haewook Han works in the nephrology department at Harvard Vanguard Cambridge, Chelmsford, Kenmore, Medford, and Quincy and only sees patients who are followed by a nephrologist.
- Stephanie Karakantas, Harvard Vanguard Chelmsford and Concord. She is a certified diabetes educator and specializes in diabetes, pediatric nutrition, food sensitivities, and nephrology.
- Helen P. Mastro, Harvard Vanguard Somerville and Wellesley. She is a certified diabetes educator specializing in diabetes and weight management. Helen is the lead nutritionist for the group.
- Sarah Mazerall, Harvard Vanguard Beverly, Kenmore, and Peabody/Lynnfield. Her specialties include eating disorders, weight management, and hypertension.
- Linda Germaine-Miller, Harvard Vanguard Burlington, Needham, and Wellesley. She is a certified diabetes educator and specializes in diabetes, pediatric nutrition, and obesity.
- Marlene O’Donnell, Harvard Vanguard Braintree and Kenmore. She is a certified diabetes educator specializing in diabetes and hypertension.
- Frances Scarlata, Harvard Vanguard Chestnut Hill/West Roxbury. She is a certified diabetes educator specializing in diabetes, pediatric nutrition, obesity, and cardiac rehabilitation.
- Margie Ullman-Weil, Harvard Vanguard Cambridge and Post Office Square. Her interests are food allergies, gastroenterology, celiac disease, and women’s nutritional needs.