Dinner Table + Fruits & Veggies = Happy Families

Reader Contribution by Gretchen Anderson
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Image by skeeze from Pixabay 

As a kid growing up in Salt Lake City, I had a wonderful childhood. My single mom did a good job of raising my three siblings and me. We were hard workers, happy and well nourished. In the 1960s and ‘70s we ate dinner as a family around our round, faux wood grained Formica topped dinner table. Most of the time, dinner consisted of a small amount of meat, a lot of vegetables and a green salad. As kids, we ate the food that was in front of us. Or, we could go hungry. The choice was ours. I believe that ultimatum gave the four of us a varied palette, which has served us well, to this day.

Back then, there wasn’t a fast food eatery on every corner, like there is today. We had a McDonald’s drive-thru/order up (no inside seating). And later, a Taco Bell opened about five miles from our home. It was a big deal to eat at either of those places. I recall when my mom was feeling like we needed a special night out, we’d all go to Taco Bell. She has always liked the food there and to this day, she prefers their tacos.

The other day, my family and I were headed home after an outing. The kids, ages 12, 16 and 18 were hungry. My husband and I were hungry as well. Coincidentally, a brand new Taco Bell restaurant just opened, not far from our home in Eagle, Idaho. The kids needed something quick because the older two worked later that day. I made the snap decision of trying out the new restaurant.

 There was something healthy on the menu for everyone, even the tween who doesn’t go out of her way for any type of Mexican food found something. But, what most impressed me was the dining area. Specifically, a high-top table in the front corner of the building. The table itself was oval shaped—almost like a surfboard. There was just enough room for the five of us and our food. We were as close as we’ve ever been at a dining table and it was great! (Fortunately, our teenagers and soon-to-be teen still like hanging out with us.) We ate. We talked. We laughed.

When we finished, I glanced back at the table that was secured to the floor with two permanent, stove-pipe type legs … wondering if I could do something like that at home. We do eat family dinners together. But we are generally spread out on a counter. Or, when weather permits, we dine outside around a wonderful old, wrought iron table. 

The United States Department of Agriculture has developed “My Plate” to help consumers make better food choices. MyPlate is designed to remind us to eat healthfully; by illustrating the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual, a place setting.

Right now in our country, only 43 percent of us enjoy family dinners seven nights a week. I get this. If you have a family like mine, with kids involved in sports, you are likely crisscrossing your town to various sporting venues at suppertime. It is so easy to roll through a drive-thru and throw some burritos your kids’ way.

Dinner: check! 

However, a study on U.S. teens published in the American Journal of Health Behavior in 2011, found family dinner frequency was a predictor of a child’s total fruit and vegetable intake. If you make it a priority, your children will be healthier and happier for it. Funny it seems my mom didn’t make it a priority to prepare creamed corn, pickled beets or green beans. That was just part of our family dinner around that old Formica topped table.

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