Health & Well-Being: Family meals have lifelong benefits

RiseVT-Addison County is spreading the message that eating together is as a family is good for children and teens. Studies support the lifelong benefits of family meals. Eating as a family leads to healthier eating, and improves children’s learning and well-being, the organization says.
The studies show that family meals:
• Help children do better in school. Parents are likely to know more about how children are doing in school.
• Support social-emotional development. Teens are more likely to have better self-esteem and less likely to experience depression or develop an eating disorder.
• Reduce risky behaviors. Children are less likely to use marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs, or have friends who use these substances.
•  Improve nutrition & supports good growth. Dinners at home are less likely to have too much sugar and unhealthy fats.
•  Save money. Planning meals and cooking from scratch costs less than many prepared or processed foods.
•  Encourage family togetherness. Family mealtimes help everyone know each other and feel they belong to each other.
RiseVT is an independent nonprofit whose mission is “to make the healthy choice the easy choice” for Vermonters, by successfully engaging “individuals, businesses, schools, community organizations and municipalities in changing practices, policies and infrastructure to make it easier for their residents to make small changes in their health.”
Among the suggestions that RiseVT makes is that parents use family meals to expand a child’s acceptance of new and varied foods.
It can take 10-15 or more exposures to a new food before a child may come to like it. Family meals are the perfect place to offer your children a variety of foods to try.
Most foods are new for younger children. Here are some strategies to help your child get comfortable with trying new foods:
-Allow children to choose which individual foods to try, by deconstructing meals (serve the vegetables separate from the chicken and the rice).
-Involve children in the kitchen or vegetable garden.
-Give them food or cooking-related coloring sheets, books, or toys.
-Let them help pick out fruits and vegetables at the market.
Short-order cooking what you know your child likes gives them fewer times to try new foods. In time, the family menu can become very limited if you prepare only what the child is familiar with. Instead, continue to offer new foods alongside familiar ones and allow your child to choose from what is offered.
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RiseVT offered a recipe for fish tacos as an option for expanding a child’s food palate.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets or other firm white fish
8 6-inch corn tortillas

Purple Cabbage Slaw or shredded cabbage
1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup tomato, cored and chopped

1 cup avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 lime, cut in quarters

hot sauce

plain Greek yogurt
1. Put the oil, spices, salt, and garlic in a bowl and mix well.

2. Cut the fish into 1-inch strips, put them in the bowl, and use your clean fingers to coat them with the spice mixture. Set the fish aside.

3. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw fish!

4. Put skillet on the stove and turn the heat to medium. When it is hot, add the tortillas, one at a time, and cooked until warm, about 30 seconds on each side. Wrap them in a dish towel to keep warm.

5. Put the skillet on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the fish and cook 3 minutes, then use the spatula to  flip the pieces over. Cook until the fish breaks easily into flakes when you poke it with a fork, about 2 minutes.
6. Give each person two tortillas and let them assemble the tacos with the toppings they like.
Recipe Source:

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