Q: I teach Sunday school in Baldwin City and was thrilled to read about your focus on Family Day this month. Starting this Sunday, I’m going to start promoting it in our church. How did Family Day get started?
A: In 2001, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse created Family Day: A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children, as a national effort to promote family dinners as an effective way to reduce substance abuse among children and teens. Kansas Family Partnership Inc. has celebrated and helped to promote Family Day in Kansas since 2002. In 2009, President Obama, all the governors and more than 1,000 mayors and county executives proclaimed and supported Family Day, which this year will be Sept. 27.
If you want to get ideas for Family Day activities (word games, activity placemat, recipes, menu planner and a challenge), go to http://casafamilyday.org.
Here are some ways to make the most of family mealtimes:
• Serve nutritious meals: Family members will be healthier and happier, their chances of getting tired or sick will be reduced, and they will have more energy to perform better at school and work. Remember, the parent’s job is to offer a variety of healthful foods in a pleasant atmosphere, while the children’s job is to choose whether or not to eat and how much.
• Set regular times for family meals: This improves children’s chances of eating a variety of foods to grow, stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight. When meals are served on time, children don’t come to the table extremely hungry or grumpy.
• Let kids know when dinner will be served: Give a “five-minute warning” so that children can complete what they are doing. They are less likely to come to the table with negative feelings about having to stop in the middle of an activity.
• Select meals when everyone can eat together: On Sunday, compare family members’ schedules for the upcoming week. Select times when all members can eat together, both at home and away. If eating dinner together is impossible due to work or school schedules, then pick another mealtime. Breakfast may work best.
• Make meals simple and quick: Spend more time at the table and less time in the kitchen. Simple food served with love and laughter is better than elaborate menu items.
• Get everyone involved in the preparation: Encourage children to help plan menus, prepare meals and clean up the kitchen. This teaches them teamwork and cooperation. According to a recent survey, 38 percent of family cooks said that children have a big influence on what is bought and prepared, so get them involved in cooking and buying groceries. Older children and teens learn how to stay within a budget by creating a grocery list and/or shopping for food.
Kids are more likely to eat meals when they are involved in the planning and preparation. Even if the parent can work faster alone, children feel important when asked to help. Small children can measure and mix ingredients, tear salad greens, put bread in a basket and set the table. This is also an opportunity to teach them food preparation skills and food safety techniques.
• Serve favorite foods: Reduce negative moods and children’s temper tantrums by including at least one food that each family member likes at every meal.
• Encourage good conversation: Focus on good conversation that involves everyone. Talk about events of the day, upcoming family activities or current events. In the White House, the Obamas have a family tradition at the dinner table. They play a game called “Roses and Thorns.” Everyone takes a turn describing a good thing that happened that day (rose) and a low moment or tough problem they had to deal with (thorn). The Krumm family played the same game, but we called it “high/low.” It’s a great way to get those teens to share their days with you.
• Eliminate interruptions and distractions: Turn off the TV or radio during mealtime. Let the answering machine take messages, and return phone calls after meals. Put pets in another room if they demand attention at mealtime.
• Make mealtime relaxing: Slow down and enjoy the family’s time together. Children generally eat slower than adults, so take your time and enjoy a few extra minutes at the table. Resist the temptation to rush through the meal and get up to start cleaning immediately.
Here’s a quick meal to try:
Sloppy garden joes
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed
1 (8 ounce) can stems & pieces mushrooms
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
8 100-percent whole wheat buns
Sauté onion, carrot, green pepper and ground turkey in a pan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, mushrooms, barbecue sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until thick. Serve on toasted or plain buns.