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Meal Plan: How Sharing A Family Meal Can Keep Your Family Fit And Trim

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

The family that eats together, stays fit and trim together, at least that’s what the experts say. In fact, dining together as a family, has been highly recommended by professionals for quite some time (See…mom’s morals and values weren’t “that” far off)

Experts note that families should make quality time a priority (a few to several times a week) and that includes sitting down as a family and enjoying a healthy meal. Furthermore, they note, that besides promoting bonding, conversation, and an exchange of ideas, family meals allow parents to teach their kids about the skill of cooking, new “tastes”, and about making healthy choices, plus, it gives them the opportunity to monitor “what” their kids are eating.

Recent research also substantiates the expert’s suggestions. Professionals point out, that with obesity being an increasing concern (obesity in children and teens has more than doubled in the past three decades) and nationwide dilemma (dare we say “plague”), the main culprit is high-calorie, low-nutrient junk foods, especially those easily and readily available nationwide in most schools and after-school facilities.

In their studies (assessing nearly 38,000 children, comprised of 50% girls and 50% boys), experts found that a preponderance of overweight youngsters (teens), beginning at age 14 with 24.1 percent obesity among boys and 27.1 percent obesity among girls.

Researchers also examined whether or not these “children” were participants in a structured dinner with their families. Additionally, they noted parental viewpoints on the importance of healthy foods and the family meal.

Although nearly 80 percent of the mothers confirmed that they engaged in at least one family meal per day, less than half expressed significance in eating together as a family (unit).

Shifting the focus to the children, studies showed that the offspring of parents, who did not emphasize the family meal as being important, were more likely to be overweight than their peers who were part of a (regular) family dining experience.

While experts assert that there is still need for further studies, they do find a strong correlation between overweight children and their parent’s attitude toward food and sharing meals. They suggest that perhaps adults with a respect for sharing one of life’s (and the family’s) greatest joys (eating); they display and convey a greater respect for food and good nutrition. And, they note that this may lead children to make better choices for themselves, including requesting healthier snacks, especially by eliminating (the amount) of available junk-food in the house.

Experts go on to propose that those who are more concerned about family meals are also like more concerned about nutrition. Additionally, they may be offering their youngsters more emotional support and building self-confidence, making it less likely for them to turn to food for comfort and solace. And, they add that eating together as a family (a few times a week) allows family members to connect and parents to (properly) influence their child’s nutrition by what is being put on the table.

Furthermore, experts suggest that parents can help influence their children’s choices when they are not around by discussing the benefits of healthy eating and offering guidelines more making suitable selections in environments outside the home, where junk-food is common.

They advise not forbidding children to indulge (once in a while), but helping them limit what they should indulge in, how much, and how often. And, experts suggest creating healthier versions of these foods at home (such as whole wheat pancakes and pizza….and try using less cheese and more vegetables as toppings).

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Meal Plan: How Sharing A Family Meal Can Keep Your Family Fit And Trim

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