Making Mealtime a Healthy Family Affair

October 21, 2010

Your children may refuse their vegetables, your spouse may constantly snack, and your parents may expect a sugar-and-butter-laden dessert. No one wants to start a family feud, but how do you keep everyone happy and healthy when it comes to mealtime? Diabetes Forecast, the consumer magazine of the American Diabetes Association, offers ideas for making meals a family affair, with extras on cooking with kids and healthy twists on traditional Thanksgiving recipes. 

The bottom line is that practicing good nutrition is something everyone can benefit from. There’s no need to single out a family member or two because of their health conditions when you can get the whole family to make healthy choices and unite in a better way of eating.  But here’s one trick, says Marlene Schwartz, PhD, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University:  don’t tell family members that they’re eating more healthfully. She calls it “stealth health”:  “I find that if I say, ‘Here, have some fruit,’ it’s less effective than if I just set it down and they eat it because it’s there.”

As is often the case when raising a family, leading by example is one of the best forms of encouragement you can provide – children and spouses alike will notice if you’re saying one thing, but doing another.  Whenever possible you can also involve your kids – even teenagers – in planning and preparing meals.  Once they are invested in the process, they are more likely to enjoy their food.

Be sure to set some rules, but don’t rule the dinner table like a tyrant or your family may start to resent their diet.  “If you totally restrict [your family], it’ll backfire,” says Mary Story, PhD, RD, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research program. For example, instead of keeping ice cream in the house, her family goes out for ice cream from time to time.  This way, they can still indulge, but it makes having a treat a special occasion. 
The November issue is geared toward enjoying family meals over the holidays – from these tips on healthful eating to teaching the next generation how fun it is to make great food to remaking Thanksgiving with slimmed-down recipes for holiday classics.
In addition, this issue of Diabetes Forecast offers “Paging Dr. Right” – a guide to finding a great doctor and getting the most out of your visit.  How can you find an excellent doctor near you? What should you do to prepare for your appointment? What questions should you ask, and how should you prioritize them? And when is it time to “break up” with an old doctor, plus what’s the best way to go about it? Even if you haven’t thought about these questions before, they are worth considering when it comes to your health.

This issue also includes:

  • Share Your Vision: Video contest calls on people to Stop Diabetes
  • Sweating to the Beat: Your heart rate and your workout
  • Power to the Patient: Helping people with diabetes assess their own progress

Diabetes Forecast has been America's leading diabetes magazine for more than 60 years, offering the latest news on diabetes research and treatment to provide information, inspiration, and support to people with diabetes. 


About the American Diabetes Association

Nearly half of American adults have diabetes or prediabetes; more than 30 million adults and children have diabetes; and every 21 seconds, another individual is diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. Founded in 1940, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization whose mission is to prevent and cure diabetes, and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. The ADA drives discovery by funding research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and works to safeguard policies and programs that protect people with diabetes. In addition, the ADA supports people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes, and the health care professionals who serve them through information and programs that can improve health outcomes and quality of life. For more information, please call the ADA at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn)