Of family dinners: food for thought

EATING WELL

April 27, 1993|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

I've been fretting about the state of family meals.

It all started with a comment from a concerned dad: "You must realize that high-fiber foods take longer to chew than low-fiber foods. And I'm so busy driving my kids around that I don't have time to chew."

Other parents chimed in, wanting to know what to eat in the car, how to make their children stick to a sports nutrition diet and how to prevent growing kids from gaining weight. Most of the children got bored and left the room. They're not interested in being forced into a mold.

More recently I talked with a father who said family dinner is a must in his house.

He said he noticed that the first of his three children went from gurgling noises to complete sentences in the blink of an eye. So he made adecision. Despite his hectic career, he spends each evening from dinner time to bedtime with his children. Everybody comes to dinner. And they have to at least taste everything.

I had to laugh later, when I read this same idea in an article in the Journal of Gastronomy. In "Feeding Your Critter," Laurie Colwin writes, "If you don't like it, you can spit it out." This is an attractive proposition to a child of spitting age. In the process of enforcing this rather benign rule, you may find your child liking things you never dreamed of.

And the child also learns that her opinions are valuable and that she can trust her own judgment. And she learns that meal time is a place to relax and be herself and enjoy the company of her family.

In "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey confesses to great satisfaction when he and his wife stopped trying to "kindly, positively manipulate" their son into an acceptable social mold.

Instead, they decided "to relax and get out of his way, and let his own personality emerge." He blossomed, of course.

I'll bet some of that happened around the dinner table.

Because the dinner table is a great place to try new foods to find out what you like. Or to float new ideas to find out what you think. Or to discuss hopes and dreams to find out where you might be headed.

As Margaret MacKenzie notes in "Is the Family Meal Disappearing?" "Any meal shared with family members that is not spent watching TV, reading or being reproached is likely to be valuable."

Maybe you're not ready for every night. But how about one or two? Or maybe you could reinvent Sunday dinner. It's a great chance to find out who's in your family.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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