For Better Living: Make time for family dinners

Sandra Cain Extension agent

It takes about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your stomach to send a message to your brain that you are full. If you’re eating in a hurry to get on to other events and activities, you will have eaten more than you need before you realize it. Try to set aside 25 to 30 minutes for an evening meal with your family. Try it when you are eating at home, eating at a restaurant or having a picnic at the park.

Taking plenty of time to enjoy the meal will give everyone the chance to relax even when the schedule is hectic. Get the family involved in dinner – from start to finish.

The evening meal does not have to be just one person’s job. Even very young children like to help plan and fix healthy meals. Some benefits of family meals may actually develop when children know they are part of the process. Assign jobs that are right for the child’s age. Children can choose the fruit for dessert or mix pre‐cut vegetables into a salad.

They can also set the table, clear the dishes after the meal or even help with dishwashing.

Create a pleasant atmosphere at the dinner table. Of all the things that can quickly improve the mealtime mood, this is the most important. Ask the whole family to turn off their electronic gadgets (TV, DVD computer, radio, MP3 player and cell phones) for just 30 minutes. Background music is fine but keep it at a low volume. The goal is to have a quiet time to enjoy food and being together. A low‐stress mealtime also keeps you from eating too much and improves digestion after the meal.

Make family conversations the centerpiece of your time together. Pleasant conversations make good meals even better. They help young children learn new words and expand other language skills. They help adults learn what is really going on in the lives of young people. They help everyone feel more secure in a confusing and often overwhelming world.

Source: North Carolina Division of Public Health

Tropical Crisp

1 fresh pineapple, peeled and cubed

4 medium bananas, sliced

¼ cup brown sugar, packed

2 T. all-purpose flour


1/3 cup old-fashioned oats

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 T. flaked coconut, toasted

2 T. brown sugar

¼ tsp. nutmeg

¼ cup cold butter

Directions: In a large bowl, combine pineapple and bananas. Sprinkle with brown sugar and flour. Toss to coat. Transfer to an 11- by 7-nch baking dish, coated with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the oats, flour, coconut, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over pineapple mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 9 servings

Sandra R. Cain is the extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Bladen County.

Sandra Cain Extension agent Cain Extension agent