Hi Readers! Today we have one of our Registered Dietitian Advisors, Eileen Behan, blogging. Enjoy!
It’s after 6 pm; you just walked in and have a hungry family to feed. Many American families solve the nightly dinner dilemma by grabbing drive-through, eating pizza or fending for themselves before splitting up to spend the evening doing homework, answering e-mails, or watching television. Most families recognize the family meal to be important they just need some help making it work. I have found preplanning and keeping the refrigerator or freezer stocked with ready- to cook food is one important strategy.
The importance of the family meal is not a new idea. A 2000 White House Report by the Council of Economic Advisors, found that children who eat with an adult five times in a week are less likely to be involved in high risk behaviors such as smoking, taking drugs and using alcohol.
Food historian Margaret Visser considers eating together to be so important she writes in her book The Rituals of Dinner: the Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners that one definition of family is “those who eat together.”
Keep in mind perfection is not the goal -the real goal is spending time together and reconnecting. It won’t be a surprise to any of us to hear time constraints, and “picky eaters” are common obstacles to the family meal. To make family meals happen turn off the television, cell phones and computers. Reducing screen time and eating family meals has a secondary benefit of reducing the risk of obesity
Here are some meal planning ideas I suggest for busy families:
- Preplan meals and cook on the weekend so you have a ready-to-heat meal during the week.
- Buy something pre-made a rotisserie chicken for example then balance the meal with a side dish, and a salad.
- You can do the same with fast food too, buy a sandwich or burger on the way home and serve it with a fruit plate and cooked frozen or fresh vegetables.
- Keep ingredients for “emergency meals” on hand, have eggs for a quick omelet, frozen meat, poultry, or fish and an assortment of vegetables canned, fresh or frozen.
- To keep the meal balanced always serve a fruit or vegetable or both with every menu.
- Involve the whole family in meal planning, ask children to grade vegetables, A-F, to determine those they like.
- For the picky eaters always serve something you know they will eat that might be bread and butter or pasta and cheese. If you know the vegetable won’t be popular put out a bunch of grapes or a bowl of sliced fruit.
- For ideas on incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your menu visit the For the Love of Food Project at www.fortheloveoffood.org
- If dinner doesn’t work try breakfast as the family meal. To make breakfast successful preplan the night before, have the ingredients for scrambled eggs and toast ready to go and serve with a fruit salad, a sliced grapefruit or frozen fruit defrosted in the refrigerator overnight or try the recipe for my family’s favorite called Blueberry Puff below
Once dinner is on the table sit down, and ignore the dishes or laundry until after the meal. Mealtime presents a good way to catch up, but sometimes that’s easier said then done. To find out how the day went ask everyone to list their high and low points as a conversation starter. To keep meals pleasant don’t focus on who is eating what, focus on basic manners and good behavior. Then enjoy your meal and your family.
I prepare this when I want a hot breakfast but don’t have time to flip pancakes or tend eggs. If extra servings are needed, don’t double the recipe, make two separate batches instead.
Makes 2 servings
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter or oil in a 1-quart baking dish and put it in the hot oven for 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter melts and the dish is hot. Remove the hot dish from the oven and swirl the butter or oil so that it evenly coats the bottom of the sides of the dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and flour and beat well, using a wire whisk or a fork, Pour the batter into the warm dish and scatter the fruit over the top.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown around the edges. Serve immediately with maple syrup.
Nutrients per serving using butter: 287 calories, 12.4 g fat, 6.0 g saturated fat, cholesterol 206 mg,137 mg sodium, 32.3 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber.