The Secret Lunch Trade off or Trash it!

posted in: CYJ Blog, Lifeskills, Meals

(Best of Celebrating Your Journey – August 4, 2006)

To all my readers: With 2019, the 14th year of my Celebrating Your Journey blog articles, “From the Heart” byline, I will be offering the “Best of the Best” articles you found helpful through the years. Many thanks to everyone who have given input and followed along w/ each month’s lifeskill—Relationships/Core Values, Time Mgt, Career/Money Mgt, Recordkeeping, Possessions, Housekeeping, Wellness, Meals, Childcare, Recreation/ Entertainment, Reflection, and Celebration. For my new readers, may these lifeskill articles offer you encouragement, insight, and commitment to seek, reach, and achieve your life dreams and goals in synergy.

Picture two kids running out the door to catch the school bus. They grab the lunch you so carefully made for them with all the fantastically healthy ingredients neatly wrapped for safe keeping until lunch time. But what you don’t know until years later, they either trade it off for someone else’s jelly sandwich. They may even trash it and buy a burrito with a coke in the school cafeteria line or nearby taco stand.

If this sounds familiar, join the million plus parents of our nation’s school age children. Some parents just hand them lunch money for the kids to do whatever they want or assume their school cafeteria is going to supply reasonably healthy meals. For the average school, one only has to visit on any particular day to see what their kids have for choices.

During the infant and toddler years you may be able to control what they eat—until their eighth birthday (even sooner maybe)! Then the food fights begin in all earnest. From then on, the food of preference more likely will be whatever their friend’s parents fix! Certainly not what is served at home!

Are the descriptive words you hear at meal time sound something like “Yuck”, or “Oh, Mom, not this again!” When will all your effort and care be appreciated? Well, the possibility is never; but it always feels better to be ever hopeful. Whether Mom and/or Dad do the meal planning and cooking, we all know we should provide the healthiest, nutritional meals possible throughout their growing years (as well as for ourselves). But how would you like to make it much more fun and appetizing for young and old alike?

Yes, it is possible. Here are some beginning tips for getting your family to love meal time and, at the same, keep it healthy for all.

  • Whatever you do, make it fun and enjoyable. When you walk in the door of your home, give yourself an attitude break from the hectic day. Put some music on, move to the mood, and get out the great food for the evening meal to enjoy!
  • Make it a family activity together; share the meal planning, preparation, cooking, serving. Trade off who’s the official cook for the day. If you have children, give them the opportunity and responsibility to prepare at least one meal/week for the family (with appropriate assistance if necessary).
  • Decide how you want to eat healthy. Take into account any specific healthcare needs requiring certain dietary regimens. Do some homework—talk with your physician/nutritionist, go online, buy healthy eating cookbooks, take cooking classes together.
  • Put together a two week menu featuring your family’s favorite dishes and some new ones to try together. Try a half-day Saturday fixing meals for the week and freeze them.
  • Go grocery shopping together—but try not to go when you are hungry!
  • At least once/week, decorate the table and dining area that says, “Welcome”, to family and friends. Something as simple as colorful napkins, table cloth, a centerpiece that makes a statement with the meal, and little favors that say, “I love you”. Music that fits the menu is singularly fun. Do picnics on the patio or backyard.
  • Take a break…eat out about one meal/week.

You may wonder, “Why just one meal/week in today’s fast paced world?” I admit that with two working parents being the norm today, everyone seems to be eating out at least one meal per day if not two. One meal is also typically done on the run—and is definitely no fun! How many meals you believe your budget and schedule can handle is in your court to decide. Just keep in mind the dollars, time, nutrition, and enjoyment you may be missing with more meals from and at home.

If all we understand meals to be is food to strengthen our bodies and satisfy our appetites, we lose out on the deeper and richer purposes of mealtime.

Whether at home or at a restaurant, mealtime should not only be fun but build relationships. Food should never be used as a tool of reward or punishment. Such behavior distorts and hinders the love and simplicity of heart that food and mealtime provides in building relationships.

Meals should always be conducive to love, quietness/rest, and gladness of heart . . . not strife and conflict. Try never to be angry when eating. It not only alienates relationships, ruins the appetite and digestion, but directly affects your health and well-being. If anger or frustration is a chronic behavior, get help to resolve the underlying reasons. You will never regret it. Food and meals together will then be a cherished daily event whether dining alone or with family and friends.

Next issue will cover some resources to help you enjoy meal time more at home, your local restaurant, and available cooking classes.