Research shows that getting into the “habit” of eating dinner together as a family results in many positive “side effects” such as lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, and eating disorders-not to mention boosting children’s self-esteem and motivation. Plus, it’s an opportunity to encourage and model healthy eating habits and, perhaps most importantly, an opportunity to connect and share your thoughts and feelings.
The challenge of creating a balanced, nutritious family meal on a tight schedule is more than enough to handle without the extra worry some people have about whether the ingredients in their food are safe or not. The truth is, we are lucky to have food that is safe, convenient, healthful, flavorful and affordable. That doesn’t mean eating only so-called “whole” or “unprocessed” foods – that includes packaged foods, too. I couldn’t feed my family of four on only whole, fresh foods – we rely on healthful “processed” foods such as frozen vegetables, canned fruits, packaged rice and pasta side dishes, and other packaged foods to round out our fresh produce, meats and dairy. Packaged foods contain food ingredients that are carefully regulated to ensure they are accurately labeled and safe to eat. Although it may not be obvious, each food ingredient serves an important function such as maintaining or improving safety and freshness, improving taste, providing texture, and improving appearance.
So at dinnertime when I find myself pulling together a meal that might be a little haphazard but includes the right mix of nutrients, I rest assured that although it’s not a fancy new recipe, my family is getting the nutrition they need and the food is safe and wholesome. And I remind myself to focus on the table talk because that is where the magic and mystery lies….not in the food ingredients.
Note: I'm pleased to be a consultant to The International Food Information Council, providing blogs and other social media content that shares their resources for health professionals and the public. I believe whole-heartedly in their mission of effectively communicating science-based information on health, nutrition and food safety for the public good.
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