Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A family that eats together...

...is just plain healthier

Well, its that time of year again, we'll all be heading back to school in the next couple of weeks.  You may be headed into a whirl-wind of driving here and there, homework, science projects, football games and more. With the back-to-school hustle and bustle of extra-curricular activities, it can be difficult to squeeze it all in, much less think about having a healthy dinner together as a family.

It's important to realize that family dinners make families healthy. According to a new Columbia University survey, teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and much less likely to have substance abuse problems.The same study also found that having family dinners five or more times a week meant teens were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana. Other studies indicate that children who have structured dinners with their families at least 3 times per week are 25 percent less likely to struggle with obesity.

The most important key to having family dinners even on school nights is having a meal plan. This will simplify both food shopping and meal preparation, and help save money too.  Go a step further by cooking large batches and then freezing them for future use.  This makes the most of time spent in the kitchen.   For instance, Tuesday is always spaghetti night at our house. I make enough for at least 2 or 3 weeks when I'm in the kitchen and freeze part for the next week.  I do the same with meat loaf and chili.

Family dinners don't have to be home-cooked 3 course meals.  Having take-out at home and sitting down at the table together for 20-30 minutes can make a difference. On Wednesday nights, we typically have our family dinner at Subway on the way home from church. We go in and sit down to eat and usually have a lot of laughs. There is always benefit to having a structured schedule on school nights.

Start the year off right, plan ahead and stay healthy! 

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