The number of meals that families enjoy together has been steadily decreasing over time. Several factors have led to this: more time spent at work, children’s after-school activities, and the convenience of fast food restaurants. Our busy lifestyles are preventing us from one very important thing: family bonding time!
Eating together as a family has many physical and emotional benefits. Mealtime is the perfect opportunity to catch up on the day’s events, plan the next day’s activities, reminisce, answer questions and solve problems. Research has found that children who eat alongside their parents tend to develop a greater vocabulary and are less likely to participate in risky behaviors.
Ways to Get Your Family Involved
- Wash produce
- Measure and/or mix ingredients
- Set the table before meals
- Pour drinks
- Clear the table after meals
- Wash dishes
- Spend time on weekends to brainstorm meal ideas
- Take them grocery shopping with you
Preparing meals and eating at home can also improve your family’s overall nutrition. Home-cooked meals tend to have more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein than their fast food competitors. Parents are more likely to influence their child’s behavior than anyone else. This makes mealtime a great time to teach other healthy habits such as food safety, hand washing and limiting screen time.
Time is always a barrier when it comes to planning family meals. If it’s not possible for you and your family to have dinner together every night, aim for two or three days a week. If only one night a week will work, make it a priority! Be sure every member of your family knows which night is “family night.”
Here’s a great recipe you can make with your family from What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.
Hearty Vegetable Beef Soup
Yield: 4 servings (1 cup per serving)
- 3/4 can (14.5-ounce can) low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 can (14.5-ounce can) chopped tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cups egg noodles
- 4 ounces diced and cooked beef
- 1 teaspoon crushed thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat broth and water in a large saucepan. Add vegetables, tomatoes, meat, and seasonings.
2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
3. Add the noodles. Cook until the noodles are tender, about 10 minutes.
4. Remove bay leaf before serving.
By Lauren Nygard
Texas Woman’s University Dietetic Intern, Tarrant Area Food Bank