Photo from Retail Dietitian’s Business Alliance (RDBA)
September is National Family Meals Month…….as if we needed a reminder of the good things that can happen when a family comes together for meals!!
Check out these impressive benefits of eating meals together as a family:
Better academic performance
Lower rates of obesity
Greater sense of resilience
Lower risk of substance abuse
Less likely to develop eating disorders
Lower risk of depression
Higher Self Esteem
Lower risk of teen pregnancy
Eating a meal together is such a simple thing. Why then is it SO difficult for some families to make it happen? Here are some common reasons:
“We are very busy and it is hard to find the time”.
“Everyone is on a different schedule”.
“We are in the habit of taking food to our rooms”.
“It would feel weird to eat together because we haven’t done it in so long”.
“We all sort of fend for ourselves during the week”.
If eating together more often is a goal for your family, here are few ideas:
1. Start small. Avoid the “all or nothing” mind trap.
Maybe it’s just not possible to bring the family together every night for dinner and that’s OK.Identify one or two nights during the week and focus on those.If family meals are ALREADY happening two or three times per week…..great!Try to build on that.
2. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
The meal doesn’t have to be perfectly well balanced to count.Even if the plan to prepare a beautiful meal fell through and it turned into pizza night, the family can still come to table and eat it on plates together!
3. Make it interesting so they WANT to be there…….talk a lot!
Move beyond questions that may be answered with only one word.The idea is to ask questions that inspire thinking.For example, instead of asking “how was your day”, try something like “tell me what you saw today that made you smile”.
Find ideas online for family dinner conversation topics.Here is a link to get you started:
4. Keep it simple.
Meals do NOT have to be complicated. Choose a meal that can be quickly prepared even on busy school nights.Chili is the answer!
Flavorful, Colorful Week Night Chili
(This delicious one pot meal is low cost, healthy and SO adaptable…..it makes a little or a LOT! Serve with salad OR raw veggies and dip for a super – easy family feast).
One pound ground beef, ground turkey OR veggie “meat” crumbles
One large yellow or white onion, coarsely chopped
One medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
One medium red apple WITH peel, washed, dried and grated
Two, 15 to 16 ounce cans of dark red kidney beans, well drained
One cup beef broth
One, 32 ounce can chopped tomatoes
Cumin, 1 tablespoon
Chili powder, 2 tablespoons (add less or more, depending on how spicy you like it)
Garlic powder, 1 tablespoon (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed)
In a medium pot, brown ground beef or turkey breast, stirring often. Drain. If using veggie “meat” crumbles, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil; add the crumbles and stir until browned.
Lower heat and add chopped onion, bell pepper and grated apple to the pot.
Continue cooking and stirring for about 3 minutes (until the veggies and grated apple have started to soften).
Add the canned tomatoes, beef broth, drained beans and spices. Stir well.
Cover and simmer on low heat for a minimum of 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
NOTE: You may double or triple this recipe if needed for larger families.
Tasty Chili Toppings:
Shredded cheddar cheese
Freshly snipped cilantro or parsley
Sliced black olives
Thin slices of fresh jalapeno pepper
Written by: Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN
Nutritionist, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program