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Family Dinners Help You Live Longer

Family Dinner

Think back to the last time your family had a meal together. Was it a day or two ago? Sometime in the last week? Has it been more than a month, or since the last holiday? If you can't remember, it's been too long. There are several reasons why you should put eating together on your calendar at least three times a week.

In economic hard times, making a home-cooked meal will save you money. Dining out, even fast food can cost two to four times what it would if you made it yourself. If you're spending eight dollars on fast food daily, that means you could save $28 per week and over $100 a month. Imagine how much you could save if you're spending more than that.

Take control of your food. When you do the cooking, you can make something with 400 calories (or less). Many restaurant meals have over 1,000 calories. You get to decide how much oil, butter, salt and sugar will end up on your plate. Prepare a little extra and you can freeze it for later saving more time, money and calories.

Eating dinner together gives you time to share thoughts and feelings. Don't sabotage it by leaving the television on. Talk about what happened at work, home or school. Researchers found that families who eat together five or more times a week have lower rates of drinking, drug use and smoking.

Set aside dinner as a time to slow down. So many things in our lives are rushed and make us available constantly. Turn off your cell phone, don't answer email, quit reading newspapers or books at the table. Make it a rule that outside interruptions aren't allowed. Stop the outside world from barging in for 30 minutes while you enjoy real food. People with lower levels of stress tend to eat less.

Once a week use dinner to expose yourself to new foods. A cousin of mine buys a new fruit or vegetable in the grocery store each week. Then he has each family member search the internet for recipes to cook it. Everybody prints out their favorite, then they vote which one sounds the best. Sometimes it turns out good, sometimes it's a disaster. His kids have learned how to cook, they're not afraid of trying new things and they now have a wide range of fruits and vegetables they love.

When you're done eating, use cleanup as a time to bond. When I was young our dishwasher broke. We didn't have the money to fix it right away, so we did the dishes together. My mother said that if we worked together for a month, they would be able to save enough money for the repairs.

It wasn't such a bad thing and before we knew it, a month had gone by and my parents had the money they needed. That's when my mom did something brilliant. She asked us if we wanted the dishwasher fixed or if we wanted to use the money to take a whitewater raft day trip. There wasn't a moment of hesitation. Let's go rafting!

We had so much fun on that trip, it was the topic of conversation for days as we cleaned up after dinner. Before we realized it, another month had gone by and my parents had saved enough money for the repairs again. This time my dad asked if we'd like to use it to go on a weekend camping trip in the local national park. He said we could each bring a friend along. My sister and I jumped at the chance.

After that, every month was a new adventure. While we were doing dishes we talked about what we would do with the dishwasher money that month. We went on hikes, bike rides, learned to kayak and rollerblade. Dishwasher money took us to the zoo, got us a pass for the pool and paid for our first trip to an amusement park. Meanwhile, doing the dishes and cleaning things up together brought us closer as a family.

It's so simple, why don't you give it a try tonight?

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.