Friday, September 7, 2018

Celebrate Family Mealtime-Connecting for Better Health

When was the last time you sat down for a meal with your family? For some families, eating together is reserved for special events and holidays, like birthdays or Thanksgiving. These special occasion meals allow families to connect with each other, strengthen family ties and pass on family cultural traditions.
Family meals don’t have to be reserved for special occasions and can happen any time of day, any day of the week! If the words “I’m too busy” pop into your mind, you’re not alone. You probably even hear this from other parents and peers. But family meals can fit into even the busiest of schedules and they offer a host of benefits for children and adults alike!
During the month of September, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension celebrates Family Mealtime by encouraging the adoption of healthy behaviors through mealtime. Children who eat with their families are better nourished, have lower rates of obesity and better vocabularies. These factors can have a positive impact on classroom behavior and academic performance. And when it comes to improving the health of our children, family meals are a great way to instill healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Research into family meals and their benefits is becoming more in depth, with some interesting findings:
  • Dining as a family can create an environment for parents to lead by example for their children. Children who eat with their families consume more fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy foods compared to those who eat fewer family meals.
  • Adults also report that eating as a family is a positive portion of their day. Mealtime creates a feeling of togetherness and family cohesion. 
  • There is an association between family meal frequency and lower rates of obesity.  However, while the meals are more nutritious (especially when prepared and eaten at home) they are not necessarily lower in calorie. Family meals consumed while distracted (watching television, taking phone calls, reading the mail) may actually increase food consumption.
Family meals are also an opportunity to promote child development by teaching children many things that will enrich their lives beyond the immediate health benefits of eating nutritious food.
  1. Memories Taking the time to sit together at mealtime helps create positive memories for yourself and your family.
  2. Enjoyment The first and most important place where children learn positive attitudes about food is in the home. Eating meals together starts a lasting and positive relationship with food.
  3. Self Esteem Mealtime conversation brings the family together and promotes positive self-esteem in children.
  4. Life skills Children learn best by doing, not watching, so get them involved! You can teach children how to cook balanced meals for themselves by including them in meal planning and preparation.
  5. Traditions Mealtime is an ideal time to strengthen family ties and pass on family cultural traditions. Whether you are celebrating a holiday or just eating an everyday meal, things you do in your home will be passed down to your children and grandchildren.
  6. Curiosity Kids are more likely to try new foods when they are involved in meal preparation. They have a natural curiosity about food so be sure to offer new foods at mealtime (but never force them to try them.)
  7. Relaxation Family meals are the perfect time to connect with each other and share your stories of the day after a hectic day of work, school and errands.
  8. Responsibility Research has shown that cooking with kids and assigning tasks surrounding mealtime, promotes independence and a sense of responsibility in the kitchen – and in life.
  9. Communication Having conversations at mealtime increases your children’s vocabulary. Encourage them to speak by asking about the best part of their day and probe more about what made the best part so great.
  10. Love Children watch and imitate adults, and look to them to learn proper behavior for everything from saying please and thank you to learning about fitness and nutrition. Mealtime is the ideal time to remind your children every day that they are important and loved.
Isn’t it time to make family meals a habit in your home? For additional information, contact the Extension office at 940-627-3341.

1. Harrison ME, Norris ML, Obeid N, Fu M, et al. Systematic review off the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. Canadian Family Physician. 2015 Feb;61(2):e96-e106.
2.  Utter J, Denny S, Robinson E, Fleming T, Ameratunga S, Grant S. Family meals and the well-being of adolescents. J Paediatr Child Health. 2013 Nov;49(11):906-11.
3. Snow CE., Beals DE. Mealtime talk that supports literacy development. New Dir Child Adolesc Dev. 2006;(111):51-66.
4. Fulkerson JA, Larson N, Horning M, Neumark-Sztainer D. A review of associations between family or shared meal frequency and dietary and weight status outcomes across the lifespan. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2014 Jan;46(1):2-19.
5. Neumark-Sztainer D, Hannan PJ, Story M, Croll J, Perry C. Family meal patterns: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003; 103(3):317-322. 
6. Videon T, Manning C. Influences on adolescent eating patterns: The importance of family meals. J Adolesc Health. 2003; 32(5):365-373.
7. Bickham DS, Blood EA, Walls CE, Shrier LA, Rich M. Characteristics of screen media use associated with higher BMI in young adolescents. Pediatrics. 2013. May;131(5):935-41

Preparing For Fall

           Even though we have received some recent rainfall in the area, we have also experienced extreme drought for most of this summer, it is very important to continue watering through the fall and winter months.  Water trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials during prolonged dry fall and winter periods to prevent root damage that affects the health of the entire plant.  The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of plant root systems. Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy.  Plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise.  Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems.
            Fall is also the time fruit tree care is forgotten or neglected, but it’s a critical time for controlling some of the peach and plum tree diseases to insure a good crop next year.  Applying a copper fungicide now can stop or at least reduce three of the major diseases that attack peach and plum trees in Wise County.  Those diseases are peach leaf curl, bacterial leaf spot and bacterial canker.  Timing of the fall spray is critical for effective control and for avoiding tree damage.  Unless applied correctly, copper, a metal, may cause severe defoliation.  Spraying should be done when 70 percent of the leaves have fallen.
             Another problem many homeowners are experiencing this fall is in St. Augustine grass.  Brown patch is a chronic lawn problem for many Wise County residents.  This fungal disease is characterized by large, circular, brown patches of grass.  Since it is a fungus, fungicides can be helpful.  Granular fungicides are easier to apply than liquid and they have longer residual.  Inspect your lawn, if the blades pull away easily from the stem and have a gray, rotted appearance, that is a sure symptom of the disease.