Come back to the dinner table!


I have been training Heidi for over 5 years now. She has a Masters degree as a dietician and is a professor at the University of Alberta teaching our youth about nutrition.

The best story I have about Heidi is the one day I took her to do my playground workout. I designed an obstacle course using the equipment and apparatus at a nearby playground. I told Heidi she had to do 5 laps around the course in under 8 minutes. Heidi being on the competitive side started the first lap hard. She was doing well up to the point she had to run up the long plastic slide.

It seemed I forgot to tell her about a steel bar that was at the top she had to duck under. Since she was trying to beat a time she had her head down and was trying to get momentum up the slide. She did not see the bar and cracked her forehead right into it. I was already past this point and was yelling at her to speed up, I thought she was slacking. When she did not respond I started getting mad and yelled louder “Hurry up, Bates”. In frustration I went back and found her lying at the bottom of the slide holding her head with blood running through her fingers. I felt a bit bad for yelling at her but still blamed her for not paying attention.

I poured some water on the cut gave her a few minutes to regain her composure and still made her finish the workout. Can’t let a little minor concussion stop you from your workout. Enjoy Heidi’s article.

According to Statistics Canada, the time we spend eating together as a family is decreasing. Working parents, after-school activities, and busy social lives have made it difficult for many families to find the time to enjoy a meal together. In fact, less than half of children aged 9-14 years report eating dinner with their families on a daily basis and 17% report never eating dinner with family.

Eating out and frequent visits to fast food restaurants has become a way of life for many children. U.S. data suggest that both children and youth are obtaining less of their energy (calorie) intake at home and more at restaurants and fast food places. Sadly, one quarter of Canadians report eating foods prepared in fast-food restaurant on a regular basis and of this group, 40% chose foods high in fat, salt, sugar or calories such as hot dogs, pizza, or hamburgers. Twenty-five per cent chose regular soft drinks. In addition, frequent fast food restaurant use has been linked to increases in soft drink and French fry intake and decreased intakes of nutrient rich foods including fruit, vegetables, and milk.

However, despite our busy schedules and hectic lives, this is one trend that Canadians need to turnaround. As it stands right now, more than half of Canadian adults and one quarter of Canadian kids are either overweight or obese. It is entirely conceivable that coming generations of children will not experience childhood as a time to play, run, jump and have fun because obesity will not permit it.

While there are no easy solutions to our problems with obesity, there are some very simple things families can do make the picture a lot brighter. Eating dinner at home — as a family — is one of these things.

Family meals promote healthy eating and help to reduce the risk for obesity. Eating family dinners has been linked to healthy eating patterns including eating more fruits and vegetables, less fried food and soda, less saturated and trans fat, more fibre and vitamins and minerals.

In addition, eating with family offers kids other benefits ranging from improvements in general health to improved academic performance. Family meals also provide parents and kids with the opportunity to connect socially and emotionally which, in turn, promotes feelings of belonging. In fact, frequent family dinners have been linked to a decreased risk for unhealthy behaviours in youth such as substance abuse, sexual activity, depression/suicide, antisocial behaviours, violence, school problems, binge eating/purging, and excessive weight loss.

Too busy to cook? Use the following tips to get dinner going at your house:

  • Double Up. Spend a couple of hours each weekend preparing meals you can freeze and reheat during the week. Make the most of this time by doubling the recipes so you have plenty to choose from when meal time hits.
  • Use Convenience Foods – Wisely! Not all so-called convenience foods are unhealthy. The key is to choose convenience foods wisely. Good choices include pre-cut vegetables and salad mixes, barbecued or roasted chickens, and fruit trays. You will pay more for these kinds of products, but in the end the nutritional benefits and time savings may make it worth it.
  • Engage the Team. Kids need to learn how to shop and cook to eat well and live well — for a lifetime. Give them the opportunity to learn by assigning specific tasks to each family member. Let them help you make dinner and prepare their own lunches. Even young children can play a role!

Keep it Simple. Dinner can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. On nights that you know are going to be really busy — keep it simple. Opt for soup and sandwiches instead of dishes that need to be baked for hours. Try scrambled eggs or omelettes filled with vegetables – eggs cook quickly and are a great source of protein and other essential nutrients. Dinner does not have to be fancy to be enjoyed!

Bring your family back to the dinner table tonight and reap the benefits!

2 replies
  1. Karen Peterson says:

    You said it, Heidi! I do struggle with the time factor, and although I am a very healthy eater, my husband and teenage daughter are not always on board. I find if I can have things prepared like a big hearty stew, or a big tupperware of pasta and sauce already made up they will opt for what’s available. If I don’t, they want fast food. Often I am at the gym after work, and they have to fend for themselves. Just a tip for all the busy moms with helpless hubbies and kids out there! Use the slow cooker! It really works! And it’s way more economical.
    K Peterson

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