Nutrition Corner: Enjoy family meals at home to combat childhood obesity

September 7th, 2016 2:08 pm

If ever there was a reason to have a family meal at home, reducing childhood obesity would be it. September is National Childhood Obesity Month. About 1 out of every 5 children in the United States is obese, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents, siblings and friends can help reduce this alarming statistic by having a family meal at home.

Family meals allow children to see adults enjoy a variety of food. They also allow children to take part in preparation, even if that just means putting napkins on the table. Role modeling is important when introducing new foods, especially vegetables. Some keys messages to remember in being a parent are that a parent’s role is to decide the what, when and where food is eaten, and the child’s role is to decide how much of a food is eaten.

Encouraging your child to eat a variety of food requires a bit of patience, planning, and creativity. Young children may not be interested in trying new foods. Try to offer a new food more than once. It sometimes takes up to 10 tries before a child will like a new food. Also, children are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in planning, purchasing or preparing the meal.

Family meals at home traditionally contain more vegetables and fruits as part of the meal. Non-starchy vegetables and fruits are lower calorie foods that add volume with fewer calories. Plan to serve at least one to two vegetables per meal.

Now that school has started, time management is more important than ever for young families. Be a planner and delegator to help make a family meal happen at home. Try this recipe as a side dish. It contains vegetables and can be served as part of another meal as well. Enjoy!

Mexican Vegetables

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil

1 zucchini, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds

1 ½ cups canned, drained or frozen corn

1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes or 2 cups fresh tomatoes

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp chili powder

Dash red pepper

Wash and prepare vegetables, cook onion in oil until tender. Add vegetables and spices. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

Serve over rice or add cooked ground beef and serve over rice for a complete entrée.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at