I have a lot of amazing memories of sitting at the dinner table with my parents and sister. Mostly hysterical memories of my dad asking how are days had been and my sister taking forever to explain every last detail of her day. It still cracks me up and is a joke we bring up when we get together! Dinnner was a time to enjoy my mom’s delicious cooking and settle in for the night. Although we are grown up now, we still have family dinner at my parents once a week, and on Sunday mornings we all meet for breakfast. Family meals are a great tradition to start today.
It may seem like a daunting task, but there’s so much to be gained from eating as a family. It’s not just a great way to spend time together; it can actually help children develop social skills and improve learning ability. A study published in 2014 revealed that the social involvement that takes place at the family table may reduce the risk of childhood obesity. But let’s get real – in order to get those meals on the table, they’ve got to be quick, easy and user-friendly. Here are five tips and recipes to help you make 2015 a year of delicious and healthy family dinners.
Tip 1: Make a Road Map
Sometimes the hardest part of dinner is deciding what to cook. Plan out a simple framework to help you decide what to make. Make one night vegetarian, another chicken, another seafood; it will make it less overwhelming.
Recipe: Vegetarian Pot Pie
Tip 2: Go Family Style
It may not be possible to have everyone eat together every night, but try your best. Whenever possible, serve part of the meal family style. It’s fun and adds to the feeling of togetherness.
Tip 3: Weigh In
Get some feedback from your family. Ask what they would like to eat – kids love to have a say. Make family favorites like soups, stews and chili on busy weeknights by using your slow cooker.
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Chili
Tip 4: Hire Tiny Chefs
Get kids cooking! They are more likely to try new things if they had a hand in making them. Assign age-appropriate tasks like rolling out dough, sprinkling cheese, cleaning lettuce and setting the table.
Recipe: 50 Easy Pizzas
Tip 5: Don’t Stress
Dinner doesn’t have to be perfect, and there are healthy options that are faster than takeout. Breakfast items, grilled cheese and speedy soups make for crowd-pleasing meals.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.
Photo: iStock.com, George Marks