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AgriLife: National Family Meals Month

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by Johanna Hicks

National Family Meals Month

Family meal time is alive and well among many families.  However, there is room for improvement!  No doubt, juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often come at the expense of family mealtime at home.  Family meals eaten at home have been proven to benefit the health and wellness of children and adolescents, to fight obesity, substance abuse and to make families stronger—creating a positive impact on our communities and our nation as a whole.  Yet, according to a 2013 Harris poll, only 30 percent of American families share dinner every night.

Some of my favorite memories stem from our family meal times when all of our children were still at home.  We would talk about things they learned or participated in at school, upcoming activities, sports schedules (with 3 kids, there was always a soccer game, drill team practice/performance, cross country meet, or other event), church activities, and more.  My husband and I still enjoy dinner at home, seated at the table, and away from the television – just the two of us.  Our discussion is not nearly as lively as when the kids were at home, but we still spend time together at the dinner table.

Multiple studies show that home-cooked meals nourish the spirit, brain and health of all family members.

  • Regular family meals are linked to higher grades, better self-esteem, and delayed sexual activity.
  • Children who grow up sharing family meals are more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior as adults, such as sharing, fairness and respect.
  • With each additional family meal shared each week, adolescents are less likely to show symptoms of violence, depression and suicide, less likely to use or abuse drugs or run away, and less likely to engage in risky behavior or delinquent acts.

The Food Marketing Institute Foundation agrees that there are many benefits to families in making and sharing meals at home:

  • The more meals families share, the better their nutrition.
  • Kids and teens who eat meals with their families 4+ times per week earn better test scores and succeed in school.
  • Frequent family meals increase self-esteem, sense of well-being, positive social behaviors and stronger family connections.
  • The more families share meals, the less likely their kids are to drink alcohol, smoke or use marijuana.

The danger of fewer family meals is real.  A significant study on the relationship between certain family characteristics and adolescent problem behaviors, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that teens who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:

–          3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or used illegal drugs

–          3 times more likely to have used marijuana

–          2.5 times more likely to have used tobacco

–          1.5 times more likely to have used alcohol

Parents MUST set a good example for their children!  After all today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders.

I want to challenge all families (even if you are single or empty-nesters) to pledge to prepare one additional meal at home each week during the months of September and October.

 

Last Call for “Cooking Well with Diabetes”

Response for this series has been very good – especially for the 6:00 p.m. session.  Please take note that those who registered for the 1:30 p.m. series will now attend the 6:00 p.m. sessions instead.

Carbohydrate Foods, Making Foods with Fats Better for You, Double-Pleasure Side Dishes, and Celebrating Sensibly with Diabetes are the topics to be covered.  Sessions will take place at the Hopkins County Extension Office, 1200 W. Houston, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:00 p.m., September 12, 14, 19, and 21.  Cost is $25, payable at the door, which covers materials, recipes, handouts, cooking demonstrations and sampling.  Please call 903-885-3443 to sign up.

Closing Thought

Each day is a special event.  Treat the world with the attention and respect you want for yourself – Energē

Johanna Hicks
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
P.O.Box 518
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone
903-439-4909 – Fax
[email protected]

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Author: Staff Reporter

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