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    Family Dinner Frenzy?
    Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP posted:
    Back to school means back to routine. One of the most important household routines is the family dinner. The benefits of a regular family meal are well documented—school success, healthier weight, improved social skills, fewer behavioral problems, and closer families. Great benefits, right? But, with long work hours, and hectic schedules, patients tell me that they just can't find time to share a meal. I get it.

    Here are some tips I have found helpful:

    1. If dinner is impossible, try a before bedtime snack (healthy choices, please, such as fruit salad or yogurt), family round table, and story time.

    2. Plan a family dinner at least once a week. Ask everyone to hold that space clear in their calendars and not plan anything outside of being home for a special family dinner.

    3. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why not fuel your family by sharing everyone's plan for the day, love, and encouragement before heading out the door?

    4. Grocery shopping and/or cooking together provides a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about nutrition and healthy eating.

    5. If weekdays are totally out of the question, set aside weekend time to catch up, share feelings and a meal.

    With a little effort your family can be healthier and happier. Those tips provide a start—but I know you have your own tips for family meals. Share what works in your family. Or, if nothing seems to work and mealtime more closely resembles a revolving door, share your trouble spots and battles for ideas and techniques to manage the mealtime melee!

    - Dr. Tanya
    Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
    As my kids start school, we get a small break for regular meals or maybe not. Open houses will rule. Then sports, after school activities and appointments and the commute from their school home takes over.

    My mother has diabetes and lives with us. Most of the year a 6 pm dinner works great for everyone. More and more activities make it tough to get a meal on the table by 6 pm though.

    What meal prep and meal ideas do you have for those evenings when you walk through the door at the same time you should have dinner on the table.

    I have had mixed results with crock pot meals, particularly when it isn't super cold outside yet. I also have a problem with kids who are starving when they walk in the door and grab something, even if dinner will be ready in 20 minutes.

    Ideas anyone?
    Boyzmomee replied to Louise_WebMD_Staff's response:
    I'm am so exhausted since school started. Open house. 7th grade orientation. Paper work. Scouts on Monday from 6:30-8:30. T-W-Th football practice from 5:30-7:30. Friday-religious services. Weekend- Sat football games.

    We are having a crock pot meal tonight even though it is hot out.

    My friend is making healthy snacks to take to football practice and then a later light dinner when they get home.

    I'm just so tired.......but I think planning is the key. Now I just need time to plan.
    Louise_WebMD_Staff replied to Boyzmomee's response:
    I am glad someone is in the same boat. My kids don't start school until next week, but we got the schedule of fall disruptions
    school events yesterday.

    I haven't even dared to look at the schedule for extra-curricular activities yet. My daughter enters high school this year and I suspect she will join a club in addition to her drama classes. My son already belongs to two clubs at the high school and has flute tutoring on Saturdays.

    Time to plan is time well spent--but like you I have trouble finding it. I dream of the day when I successfully search the Internet for seasonal menus that have a four week rotation, all are easy-to-prepare in a hurry, fit my budget, and the family can all eat them.
    Louise_WebMD_Staff replied to Louise_WebMD_Staff's response:
    Daughter has decided to jump into high school clubs with a vengeance. Can you say dinner delays?

    Where is my healthy crockpot cookbook?
    eastcoastbeachgirl responded:
    We have been lucky enough to manage family dinners everyday since having children. We both come from large familys where family dinner was not an option, it was a must.

    As my children are getting older and each have more/different activities, I have taken a page from my mothers book and have been precooking/freezing meals for weeks. We have a separate chest freeze for just this purpose.

    As PP said, it takes planning ahead to pull this off and a team effort between family members. We have 7 or 8 different dinners planned out. One Week end day a month we prep these meals, then freeze. It has saved me money in the long run because I watch the sales and buy in bulk most of the time.

    We prep meat, ie clean, trim fat (if needed) spice and/or marinate then freeze in dinner size portions. You can freeze fresh veggies if you par boil them first in dinner size portions. We do alot of stir fry veggies as it is quick and easy.

    We have a white board in the kitchen where I write the day's menu choice, whomever gets home first starts dinner. Granted my oldest is only 12, but she is a great help, right now it is either me or my husband cooking, but not for long.

    I have the younger ones set the table for dinner when they get home from school, before school, if time allows.

    We try very hard not to schedule anything between 5 and 6 pm to allow for family dinner, but are really flexible with the time as the whole dinner cooking/serving time is usually no more than 30 mins with everything already prepped.
    eastcoastbeachgirl replied to Louise_WebMD_Staff's response:
    A spoonful of peanut butter has been a great hunger stopper in our house, while dinner is cooking or a piece of fruit.
    Louise_WebMD_Staff replied to eastcoastbeachgirl's response:
    Wow. You are very planned out. Can you share what dinners you have planned for this month to help us get started?
    Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP replied to eastcoastbeachgirl's response:
    Preparing meals ahead of time is a great tip for busy families. And involving your children teaches them what goes into a healthy meal and the importance of family time. Another nice way to engage teenagers is let each member of the family pick a day of the week to be in charge of dinner. Initially they may need some help, but soon enough they'll be proud to do it all on their own. Some teen favorites are taco night (you can cook the meat ahead of time and he can assemble the other parts) and pizza night (she might surprise you with her choice of toppings).
    Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP replied to eastcoastbeachgirl's response:
    If they just can't wait, I offer fruit or veggies. It's a healthy snack that seems to occupy their time until dinner is ready. If my kids eat a serving of veggies before dinner starts, I'm already ahead.
    It also works for those children who seem to be hungry an hour after dinner or before bed. While I recommend that parents limit unhealthy snacks, fruit and veggies are always ok.
    Boyzmomee replied to Louise_WebMD_Staff's response:
    Find it, now!

    My son is in AVID and taking a trip this weekend to a UC campus. He also is in choir and will have trips for that. Bar Mitzvah count down ...10/9.

    I'm tired just thinkiing about it. He is very thin so he can have high calorie foods so that at least makes it easier.
    Boyzmomee replied to Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP's response:
    My son's doctor says he needs more calories. Both of my boys are very thin by nature and the youngest takes Adderall.

    From 3pm on, I allow eating which can include ice cream, peanut butter sandwhiches, cheese, etc.

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