Sharing the Best Time of the Day, Family Mealtime


Who doesn’t enjoy finally sitting down with family and friends for a delicious holiday meal? Those moments are so special not simply because of the food (though it sure is an important factor), but the opportunity to catch up with our loved ones, sharing laughter and lives.

So, why not share a meal with our family every day? Of course, we cannot cook a 3-course holiday meal every day, but everyday meals don’t need to be culinary prize winners to make them special, and there is nothing wrong with leftovers.

Why are family meals so important? Family meals are beneficial for both parents and children. Enjoying meals as a family at home can protect against weight gain and unhealthy eating patterns (such as binge eating or eating too little). But that’s not all! Children and teenagers that eat with their parents three or more times a week, eat more vegetables and fruits, eat less fast food and drink fewer sodas than other children. Family meals are also good for our emotional well-being. Studies found that the more often teenagers eat with their families the less likely they are to use alcohol, tobacco or marijuana.

Make mealtime a family activity.

Involve your spouse and children in the meal planning process. Plan ahead of time what you want to prepare for the rest of the week. The more you prepare ahead of time, say at the weekend, the less you will have left to do before dinner. So, make sure you do your grocery shopping on a free day, and then you don’t need worry about that later. If your children are older, ask them for their input and give them responsibility. Children can help in the kitchen under your supervision: let them read out loud the recipe, cut the veggies, stir the pot, etc. The older they are the more responsibility you can give them. Cooking can be a fun family activity and great learning process for your children. Why not let your teenage son/daughter decide what will be for dinner on Saturday and ask them to prepare the meal by themselves?

Focus on yourself and on each other.

Turn off the TV and cell phones during mealtime. This is your family’s chance to spend time together and get to know each other. For some of us it may even be the only time during the day everyone is in the same room! Don’t worry if not everyone likes everything that is on the plate. Most of us are not professional caterers, so this is bound to happen (a lot). This is not about preparing the perfect meal or the perfect moment. This is our time to relax, be together, and of course eat.The most important thing is to stay positive when planning family meals! Don’t let yourself get stressed out. Trust yourself, your spouse and child, and share the love for food with your family.

Extension Service publishes a monthly newsletter, the Mealtime Solutions, which provides great recipe ideas for family meals. If you are interested in receiving this newsletter or would like to find out more information about family meals, contact our new Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent Ludmila at 406-433-1206 or e-mail [email protected].

So, let’s try to add a little bit holiday to every day!

Quick Chicken Ratatouille (serves 4)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil 

4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 small zucchinis, unpeeled and thinly sliced

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 medium green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ pound mushrooms, fresh, sliced

1 can diced tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ½ teaspoons dried basil, crushed

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Black pepper to taste 

1. Heat oil in large non-stick skillet. Add chicken and saute about 3 minutes (or until lightly browned).

2. Add zucchini, eggplant, onion, green pepper and mushrooms. Cook for about 15 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley and pepper. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is tender.

4. Enjoy.

Recipe Source: http://www.fruitsandveggies


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