University of Illinois Extension asks you to Take the Family Mealtime Challenge March 13 – 19

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

"Family mealtimes, when they're done right, are linked to many benefits for children, including a reduced risk of substance abuse, eating disorders, and obesity." said Barbara H. Fiese, director of University of Illinois' Family Resiliency Center.  She conducted a study that put mealtimes under a microscope to see which factors deliver healthy outcomes.  Which ingredients did she find make the most difference? It's as easy to remember as ABC: Action, which includes eliminating such distractions as cell phones and the TV; Behavior control, which involves discipline that isn't harsh and also teaches manners; and Communication that shows genuine interest and concern about what's going on in each others' lives.

And, because any good recipe is specific about the amounts of each ingredient, Fiese has issued some family mealtime guidelines.  "Communication is by far the most important ingredient. The average family meal takes 18 minutes, and I'd allot about 2 minutes to action, 4 minutes to behavior control, and 12 minutes to positive communication that affirms kids' importance, helps them resolve troublesome issues, and reminds them to take their medicine or write a thank-you note," she said.

According to Fiese, children thrive on routine, and disorganized meals are related to poorer health for the children who participate in them. Recent research suggests that poor organization--a lot of chaos in the family environment--disrupts learning and predicts poor social and emotional development, she noted. "Family mealtimes that follow these ABC guidelines are an important ritual that parents can use to counter that trend," she said.

Putting this research into practice begins with starting a new routine.  University of Illinois Extension Nutrition Education Program is asking families to take the Family Mealtime Challenge.  They have set aside the week of March 13 – 19 as Challenge week.  Families are invited to fill out a simple log sheet detailing their meal practices, with the goal to try to eat at least 5 meals together during that special week.  Families who successfully complete the project will be rewarded with two prizes, a recipe booklet and a Table Talk conversation starter.  For more details or to download a log form, visit the Rock Island County Extension web site at www.extension.uiuc.edu/rockisland or call Cheryl Reidenouer, (309) 756-9978 Ext 23.

To help families with their mealtime planning, on Tuesday, March 15, from 10 am – Noon, University of Illinois Extension, Rock Island County will offer a free Family Meal Time Workshop.  University of Illinois Extension Nutrition Education program staff will show participants how to prepare healthy family meals.  There will be food demonstrations and tastings, and guests will receive a free copy of the Family Mealtime Quick and Easy Recipes Cookbook, an opportunity to win door prizes, and they can sign up for the Mealtime Challenge.  To attend the program, you can register online at www.extension.uiuc.edu/rockisland or call (309) 756-9978 Ext 24.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal  opportunities in programs and employment.  If you need a  reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Cheryl Reidenouer, EFNEP/ SNAP-Ed Educator at 756-9978 ext. 23