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Family Meals: A Valuable Choice

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

As a child family meals were a daily ritual for both breakfast and dinner in my home. My mom prepared these hot meals for our family every day of the week. When I was in high school and she returned to work full-time, I helped her both in the planning and preparation. We sat down once a week to plan the week’s dinner menus, which made it easier for us to prepare after a busy day at school or work.

Enjoy togetherness

To highlight the importance of family meals, The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation led the charge to designate September as National Family Meals Month. Family meals may not take several hours to prepare anymore or be something busy families with lots of activities can do every single day but they are important for several reasons.

Savor the benefits

Sitting down and sharing a meal lets families relax and catch up after a hectic day as well as help children learn conversation skills and good table manners. According to FMI, regular family meals are linked to higher grades, better self-esteem and positive behaviors like sharing, fairness and respect. In addition, research has documented that kids who share family meals at least three times a week have healthier eating habits and are less likely to be overweight.

Involve them all

Getting the entire family involved is a great way to make sure meals represent everyone’s favorites and food preferences. When they help plan, shop for and prepare meals, children learn how a variety of foods can create nutritious, balanced meals. Using the USDA MyPlate as a guide, each family member can plan dinner for one day of the week. Parents can teach kids how to balance food choices with a meal that pairs grilled meat with fried potatoes, a steamed green veggie and whole grain roll. Likewise, enjoying fruit for dessert after most dinners allows the family to splurge a couple of nights a week on a piece of cake or an ice cream float.

Making balanced food and beverage choices starts with parents teaching their kids at home, including around the family dinner table, and a much better strategy than trying to regulate or tax people into better eating habits. There are many choices in life. Choosing to make family meals a part of the daily routine will reap benefits for parents and kids now and for years to come.


Neva Cochran is an award winning registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant in Dallas, Texas. A veteran media spokesperson and popular speaker she was also a 20-year freelancer for Woman’s World Weekly magazine. She is a past president of the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and a past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. Neva is also an advisory partner to the Food and Beverage Industry. Follow her on Twitter at @NevaRDLD

Don’t Buy the Hype: Soda Taxes will not enhance health in America

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about soda taxes, and politicians’ false promises are not helping cut through the confusion. In the finale of our five-part series, we'll discuss just what can be done to enhance America's public health.

What can be done to enhance health in America? Education and collaboration will continue to drive healthy choices across America. Everything we eat, drink and do contributes to the overall health picture, which is why balance, moderation and activity are truly the key. The beverage industry’s Balance Calories Initiative is working to promote this message. This effort, and others like it, will propel meaningful health behavior change. Arbitrary taxes will do no such thing.

So the next time you hear that a politician has proposed a tax for your own good, think about the real, revenue-boosting motives behind the rhetoric.

Making Choices, Having Choices

Carol Berg Sloan, RDN, FAND

I recently attended a chef specific event where food service professionals from high-volume restaurants and hotels came together to learn about trends in the industry. What's hot on the menu? When health-conscious consumers dine out, they want flavorful food, good drinks but most of all, choice. They want to be able to get a comfort classic such as Lobster Mac' and Cheese but also have available legume centric Vegan Patties on Whole Grain Buns. They want a decadent dessert, but have the option to finish a meal with fresh fruit.  They like to see retro "pop", but also look for diet soda, flavored water and tropical fruit drinks on the bar menu. This sentiment echoed was across all age categories and geographic locations. When people spend their dollars on a meal they want to revel in the social, emotional and nourishing aspects of enjoying all types of food and drink together, but they also demand quality and a huge spectrum when it comes to choice.

I had an impromptu meal last week with a friend and colleague at a popular Japanese sushi restaurant. We chose a variety of dishes, some “healthier” than others, but a mix. It was a two hour "event" where we ate and drank, laughed, talked business and walked out feeling satiated and satisfied with the choices we made.

The bottom line is that consumers want choice. When politicians try to restrict that choice with taxes or bans, it affects everyone, from the restaurants and small businesses that are forced to limit their options, to consumers, just like you and I, who want to eat and drink what works best for us on any given day or occasion. 

Carol Berg Sloan RDN, FAND is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and independent food and nutrition communications consultant in Long Beach, California. Carol has served as a delegate to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a committee member of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nutrition Education for the Public and Dietitians in Business and Communication Dietetic Practice Groups. Carol is also an advisory partner to the Food and Beverage Industry.

Tags: Health National Advocacy Blog
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