Five Lasting Benefits Of Family Mealtimes: Make Quality Time Count

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.
So tomorrow night in the kitchen, I hope the talking begins.”- Ronald Reagan

When you start a family, you begin a journey of creating memories. For meaningful mementos that you can reminisce on for years, you usually go out of the way to celebrate special occasions. The effort you give to make big events memorable sets a positive example because it is a subtle way of showing your kids how well you value your family.

However, parents should realize that the part and parcel that form their everyday life will have greater impact on their children. If done right, the simple act of eating a meal together can create lasting benefits for the whole family.

Deeper relationships.

The world will definitely be a lonely place without relationships. Everyone will agree that having a strong support network is one thing that helps all of us get by through life’s ups and downs. Since family members are usually the persons closest to you, building relationships should start at home. Gathering together during mealtimes allows family to communicate and connect with each other. In the long run, the interactions that take place at the family table will strengthen relationships.

Well-adjusted kids.

As children grow, they become susceptible to bad influences which can lead to behavioral problems. Fortunately, regular family mealtimes can help parents shield their kids from all these possible scenarios. A 2014 research study published by the National Council on Family Relations, a non-profit organization, showed a positive correlation between family dinners and well-adjusted kids.

Smarter children.

If you want your kids to do better in school, you have another good reason to insist on making mealtimes a family activity. It may seem unlikely, but you can use mealtimes as a chance for learning. Aside from demonstrating proper eating manners, you can briefly discuss topics while at the dining table. The exchange of ideas that happen during meal times will open the minds of children to various points of view. These conversations encourage kids to speak their minds, and in the process, sharpen communication skills.

Better health.

Home cooked dishes are generally healthier than fast food and takeout meals. Eating together at home is therefore one way to ensure good health of the whole family. It is also a way to monitor the food intake of everyone. This claim is even backed by research as a paper published by the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that families who dine together at least three times a week reduces the risk of obesity and eating disorders.

Happier household.

It will be hard to foster a loving environment if you do not make bonding times a daily priority. Finding time to be together can be tough because everyone can get so busy. The good news is that mealtimes are one of the easiest ways to catch up with each other. Furthermore, a study by Brigham Young University researchers found out that family mealtimes allow working mothers to de-stress after a tiring day in the office.

So if your goal is to leave wonderful memories and impart great values, give prime importance to ordinary moments as well. Who knows? The fondest memories of your children can even be during family meal times.

Dean and Marcie WhalenFive Lasting Benefits Of Family Mealtimes: Make Quality Time Count
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How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Whether you’re a picky eater in search of ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, or you have a child who perpetually leaves “the healthy stuff” on his plate, I’m here to help. There are plenty of creative techniques that will assist you in your efforts in meeting your nutritional needs, without feeling like you are forcing yourself to eat things that you dislike. Keep reading for a few easy tips.

Purée or dice them

Mashing, processing, or blending a cooked fruit or vegetable, create a purée.
Traditionally, the skin and seeds will be removed and liquid will be added, to create a smoother end result. You can purée an array of foods such as carrots, beets, bananas, and blueberries; the possibilities are endless. Fruits and veggies can even be combined to double the benefit. Purées can be used as a base for soups, smoothies, and sauces. Depending on your choice of ingredient, purées can also add fun and vivid color to foods, which increases their visual appeal to children. A win-win.

Dicing means cutting into small chunks. Diced vegetables add color, flavor, and important vitamins to dishes. Many recipes like salads, pasta sauces or egg rolls already include diced vegetables, but they can be added to other foods as well. Below are a few examples:

· Scrambled eggs with diced asparagus, red bell peppers, and onions
· Rice/quinoa with diced mushrooms and broccoli
· Flaked tuna with diced carrots, celery, and grapes

If dicing is too difficult (raw carrots are hard to dice) try using a peeler or food processor to make the process a bit easier.

Make fruits and vegetables look like other tasty foods.

Popular foods like fries, chips, pasta and ice cream can be elevated to fit into a healthy lifestyle. Simply replacing the core ingredients with nutrient dense foods can make all the difference.

Here are a few substitutions that will leave your whole family wanting more:

Fries
· Zucchini fries
· Carrot fries
· Beet fries
· Apple fries

Chips
· Kale chips
· Banana chips
· Apple chips
· Eggplant chips

Pasta (*use a spiralizer)
· Spaghetti squash
· Eggplant lasagna noodles
· *Carrot noodles
· *Zoodles (zucchini noodles)

Ice Cream
· Nicecream
(Blended frozen bananas are the base for “Nana Cream”. Nicecream can be combined with other fruits, purées, and flavors to increase the taste complexity)

· Fruit popsicles
(Purées, mixed with chopped fruits, can be frozen to create healthy popsicles)

· Yogurt popsicles
(Greek, dairy-free, or traditional yogurt, with added fruits, make a perfect frozen treat)

Pizza
· Cauliflower crust
(After pulverizing the cauliflower in a food processor, combine it with garlic, herbs, egg, and spices, then bake)

Bake them

Fruits have been baked into muffins, breads, and cakes for centuries, but did you know that vegetables could be included too? Most of us only have extensive experience with carrot cake, a fan favorite, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

A list of untraditional (vegetable based) baked goods:

· Zucchini bread
· Red beet pancakes
· Coconut butternut squash bread
· Chocolate avocado cake
· Spinach muffins
· Cauliflower bagel bites
· Chickpea peanut butter cookies

Fruits and vegetables are a vital part of sustaining any healthy diet. Each meal should contain at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable. Reaching that goal doesn’t have to be difficult. Be creative when preparing your food and use the tips above as a guide. Before you know it, you’ll have formed a habit of eating foods that are both delicious, and good for you.

Dean and Marcie WhalenHow to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
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How to Survive Grocery Shopping with a Toddler

Grocery shopping with a toddler: add it to the top of the list of things no one loves to do. Between the screaming, the grabbing, the running away, and the sneaking of miscellaneous items into the cart, there’s a whole host of nightmare scenarios that just come with the territory of bringing a toddler to the grocery store with you. If you’re a parent, you’ve more than likely been there, and you’re nodding your head right now. If you’re even thinking of having kids, you’ll someday know this pain (and encounter it weekly).

For all of you struggling parents out there, there are three tips that will help anyone survive grocery shopping with even the most stubborn of toddlers.

Let Your Toddler Help with the List

There’s nothing more frustrating for a curious toddler than not knowing what’s going on and not being a part of the action.

Get your little one involved in the choices that you make at the store by holding up prospective items and letting them pick which one they’d prefer. Hold up an apple in one hand and a pear in another; whichever your toddler lunges for, add a few of them to the cart. That way, your child feels a sense of agency, instead of helplessness, when you’re grocery shopping together.

Keep Your Toddler Comfy While Shopping

When it’s cold outside, and you enter a heated store, the first thing you do is peel off your coat and strip off your hat and gloves. Your toddler doesn’t quite have the sense to do that just yet, so you’ll have to be their climate control.

If the store’s usually on the cold side (as many grocery stores are), make sure you bring an extra sweater or jacket to keep your toddler nice and comfy while you shop.

Make Sure Your Toddler isn’t Hangry

You wouldn’t dare go grocery shopping when you’re hungry—or if you do, you immediately regret it when the bill is tallied up. So, why would you bring your toddler to the store with an empty tummy and hungry eyes? It’s a recipe for disaster!

The next time you plan to head to the store with your toddler, make sure they’re not hangry (hungry to the point of anger) by giving them a small snack in preparation. Having something to nibble on while you’re perusing the vegetables will cut down on the screaming, crying, and it will definitely diminish the grabbing and putting random items in the cart. Thank goodness for animal crackers!

Dean and Marcie WhalenHow to Survive Grocery Shopping with a Toddler
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