Take time to eat together as a family
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Take time to eat together as a family

meals together as a family


By Andrea Holwegner, For The Calgary Herald   December 2, 2010

Some time ago I was at the bank in a suburb community shopping complex, with the usual big box stores and fast-food restaurants.

As I was about to get into my vehicle, I noticed a dark-blue minivan, in desperate need of a wash, hastily pulled into a parking stall. The driver’s door opened and out popped a woman on her cellphone. She yanked open the van’s sliding door and out jumped three cute kids dressed in soccer uniforms.

The woman, evidently their mother, urged them to move it. “Hurry up, we’re going to be late for the game!”

As they rushed into one of the fast food outlets, a sign posted in the restaurant window caught my eye: “You Deserve Better,” it read in big, red letters.

I thought about the irony in that message as I drove away: how we had become a culture that rushed kids through a junk-food meal to try to get them to a game on time.

The soccer mom was trying to do the right thing by keeping her kids active. But was this the kind of meal needed to fuel sport? Was food gobbled off a plastic tray really what a family meal should look like? Can kids really learn to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods by choosing their favourites off a menu?

As a dietitian, I sure didn’t think so.

As a foodie who believes food is one of life’s greatest pleasures to be enjoyed and celebrated, I also started to wonder about the experience of a speedy meal inhaled in minutes. Did this family actually have a chance to connect in an atmosphere that encourages dining and dashing? Did they have the same meaningful conversation about the highs and lows of life that research has shown happen at home around a family dinner table?

No, I really don’t think so.

The truth is you deserve better. You and your family deserve to eat fully: healthfully, but also soulfully. Taking time to eat together as a family and fit in nutrition at the real speed of life is not only important, but I believe essential. The payoffs are big; healthy weight, greatly improved health and a new level of family connectedness and enjoyment.

I grew up in a family of five where we were all expected to be home for dinner at 6 p.m. I don’t remember ever begrudging this, even as a moody teenager. It was a normal and an expected part of the day. Supper was likely the only time of the day where all of us got together amid busy sports, school and work commitments and actually communicated. Today, I realize how lucky I was to have parents (especially a mom) who fought to make sure we ate together as a family.

A 2008 article in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research found that only about one-quarter to one-half of adolescents consume meals with their family regularly (five or more times a week). Could this be one of the reasons that over one-quarter of Canadian children and adolescents are overweight or obese?

Do dwindling family meals have anything to do with the fact that eating disorders rank as a common chronic illness in adolescent females? A 2006 research article in Health Education Research suggested that an estimated 50 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys report they are dissatisfied with their bodies. Could simply eating together as a family help?

I believe it can.

There are stacks of statistics to show family meals have substantial benefits. Families that dine together generally eat more fruits, veggies, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and consume fewer fried foods, soda and unhealthy fats.

The more often you have family meals, the less likely your teen is to use and abuse tobacco, alcohol and marijuana, have a low grade point average and depressive symptoms and become suicidal. Families that eat together are also less likely to be overweight and have disordered eating habits.

While I am not saying it is easy, you can’t assume that your kids are going to learn the critical healthy eating messages they need outside your home. Here is my challenge to you: eat at least one meal every day with your family. Try supper or even breakfast.

Then observe over time the positive changes that can happen when you fight for family meals.

Andrea Holwegner is president of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com and www.chocoholicdietitian.com or phone 403-262-3466 for more information on personalized nutrition counselling, seminars and to subscribe to a free monthly e-zine.

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/health/Take+time+together+family/3916405/story.html#ixzz16zXdHeZs

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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