Celebrating August is Family Meal Month
In our busy world, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of sharing meals, whether with family or friends. In a family setting, a gathering of all family members reinforces the importance of food and food choices. It also helps to share the inner circle to clear minds and promote good mental health.
Mealtime should be a stress-free zone. The focus should be on the meal and on the other. It is important to unplug televisions, cell phones and other electronic devices during meals to maximize social interactions. This is the time to ask questions about the day’s activities, share a laugh, or share concerns. Often times, breakfast or dinner is the best time to indulge in a family meal.
In a family setting, it is also important to include young children in the preparation of meals. Simple tasks such as rinsing fruits or vegetables or adding ingredients to cooking foods will develop a connection between foods and their importance to health. Some children may prefer a simple task of setting or clearing the table. Inclusion is vital, even if it’s just about taking out the trash.
For those of us a little older or with older family members, mindful eating is just as important. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment by engaging all of your senses and removing unwanted or unnecessary distractions. It means focusing on the food – its taste, texture, emotional response. As we age, the daily demands of life often allow us to swallow food without really noticing what we have eaten or how much we have eaten. This can lead to overeating, frequent snacking, and unhealthy food choices after a meal. Slow down so you can start to notice when you are satisfied or full. Mealtime doesn’t have to be a chore or something you dread. Rather, it should be relaxing and rewarding, especially when shared with others.
For many people, mealtime is filled with precious memories. These keepsakes can be special occasions or vacations that included sharing food with family and friends. For the elderly, the joy of seeing young children at the table can bring back memories of long ago. For older people, these exchanges bring a sense of heightened self-esteem when younger people ask questions and share stories. Studies have shown that older people generally have greater well-being from social gathering. Likewise, children can develop positive attitudes towards older people and an initial understanding of the aging process. In addition, activities with food or the sharing of food traditions are a way for the elderly to pass on essential skills to future generations.
It may not be possible to sit down every day for shared meals. However, you will get the benefit of doing this several times a week. Who knows? It could become your new favorite habit!
Dr. Dianna Richardson has served Jefferson City and surrounding communities for over 22 years. She has worked in the field of health and nutrition as a wellness practitioner for over 30 years. The core of her practice remains the use of nutrition to improve health, vitality and quality of life. Richardson holds a doctorate in naturopathy, degrees in nutrition, and a master’s degree in public health education. It is located at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.
30 MINUTE SLOPPY JOE CASSEROLE
2 1/4 cups (10 oz.) Elbow noodles
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
1 pound of ground turkey or ground beef
2 ½ cups of cauliflower in rice
2 cups chopped red bell pepper
1 1./2 cups chopped onions
1 cup of grated carrots
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons of dry mustard
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; put aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add turkey / beef; cook, stirring to crumble, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, peppers, onions, carrots and garlic; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire, mustard, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.
Stir cooked pasta into turkey mixture; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, 5 to 7 minutes.