Written by Nicole Walters, UGA FACS Agent – Monroe County
Alexis Roberts, UGA FACS Agent – Fulton County
As we approach the holiday season, we are reminded of fond memories of meal times spent with family and friends gathered around the dining room table. These home cooked meals created a space for meaningful conversations and times of reflection. This year may look a little different than years past. Our gatherings may be smaller in number or less frequent than we had planned. Regardless of the size, meals at home with family are a special time to bond. Whether you’re whipping up something quick or using a family recipe from generations past, meals at home have been proven to be more nutritious, lower in calories and allow for healthier portion sizes.
This year on December 3rd, the University of Georgia Extension staff are asking you to take part in the seventh annual Family and Consumer Sciences Day and dine in for the win! To get involved, simply pledge to eat a home cooked meal with your family on this day. If you need meal ideas and recipes that are quick, healthy and affordable, please visit https://foodtalk.org.
Eating together strengthens family bonds. Studies show that for younger children, having routine family meals can provide a sense of security and a feeling of belonging in the family. Older children and teenagers, too, prefer eating together as a family. Regular family meals also provide opportunities for the family to develop better communication. At family meals, parents and children have time to catch up with each other and learn about the events that happened that day. It also provides parents an opportunity for teaching social skills, table manners, and basic cooking skills.
Eating together as a family also means that family members are more likely to eat healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables and less fried foods. Some researchers found that eating meals together reduces the risk of being overweight.
Use the following tips to make your “dining in” experience more meaningful.
• If your family is not accustomed to eating together regularly, start small by scheduling a family meal or two per week.
• The meal does not have to be elaborate or time consuming. Use the slow cooker for the main dish and add sides when you get home. Maybe you can cook enough on the weekend to eat leftovers during the week or freeze half for another time. Have you thought about breakfast for dinner? Or just have soup and sandwiches.
• Make family meals fun. If time permits, include children in the preparation of the meal and in the decision about the menu.
• Try to limit the conversations to positive or neutral topics. Keep it light and fun. Create an environment that leads to healthy communication.
• Eliminate distractions, like TV and cell phones.
• Eat slowly. Remember, this is an opportunity for the family to spend time together. Do not make it about the food; make it about the family.
If December 3rd is not a good day for you to dine in, then choose another day. Start by making a commitment to set aside one day to dine in by going to http://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home. For more information about Family and Consumer Sciences Day, meal planning, nutrition or other programs offered by the University of Georgia Extension, please contact Decatur County Extension at 229-248-3033.