The dining room table may be small or large, rectangular, round or triangular, decorated with the most elegant tablecloth or with the most practical one. It may even show off a centerpiece of candles or a decorative jar or flowers. But, the dining room table will never be fully complete or beautiful if the entire family doesn't gather around it in harmony at mealtime.
From the largest to the smallest of families, mealtime should be considered an important occasion in which the family gathers around the table not only to enjoy delicious homemade food but also to spend time together as a learning and bonding experience.
"The table's structure is physically designed for sharing so that people can sit in front of one another and communicate easily. Therefore, we should take advantage of the positive exchanges that take place at the dinner table," emphasized Dr. Eleazar Lara-Pantin, a MyDiet™ specialist in nutrition. He also stressed that the family's role at the dinner table is to teach social values and appropriate table manners to all members so that they know how to handle themselves socially and behaviorally when they are eating outside of the house.
What does a good family table consist of?
Aside from the parents, children, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles and other loved ones, a good family table should present a variety of delicious and appetizing foods which contribute to the overall health of each family member or guest.
Families must keep in mind the needs of overweight family members, children, athletes, or members that suffer from some type of disease, and develop a menu that meets everyone's needs and preferences.
According to Doctor Lara-Pantin, this is not difficult to do. The first thing to think about is the variety of foods and the different nutritional value each one has.
"You should create a balanced menu using variation, not monotony," mentioned Doctor Lara-Pantin.
An expert nutritionist recommended as an example a menu that includes something from each of the food groups: protein (meat or non-meat) carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits. "Ideally, one food group should not dominate the others," the nutritionist added.
"Given that there are no forbidden foods, the family should eat what they like but prepare it in a healthy way," upheld Doctor Lara-Pantin. In order to do this, remove any visible fat, and roast, bake or boil instead of frying. When preparing foods, limit the amount of additional fat used such as cooking oil or other oils that add flavor to foods and salads.
Water and milk should be present on the table instead of carbonated drinks and calorie-packed sweets that can lead to problems in the future.
The same for everyone
If you prepare a balanced menu, everyone, regardless of age, height, or weight, can share in and enjoy the same meal, and no one will feel left out.
"You have to create a pleasant atmosphere in the house so that members with obesity or health problems feel at ease. In addition, you need to help them achieve their goals," noted Doctor Lara-Pantin. This way, family members who suffer from problems won't feel like they are sacrificing something, or that they're eating something less appetizing than what the rest of the family is eating.
Flavor and health without overdoing it
According to the principles of variety and serving appropriate portions, the entire family, even those with special needs, can eat together without sacrificing excellent food quality. For example, Doctor Lara-Pantin pointed out that the MyDiet™ program encourages families to eat in moderation.
In addition, the doctor mentioned that usually there's more than one person in the family who suffers from the same or similar type of eating problem whether it be an excess of weight or cholesterol among others. That's why, by changing undesirable eating habits, the entire family reaps the benefits, and even future problems can be prevented.
On the other hand, if one of the family members is an athlete who needs more energy, just simply serve him or her a larger portion of the same food which is sure to help them reach their athletic goals.
When it comes down to it, who doesn't long for the enjoyment of sharing delicious family recipes with the ones they love? "This is the objective of eating well: enjoying delicious, balanced, and nutritious meals in good company," concluded Ana María González, nutrition counselor for MyDiet™.
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