Dine in Day, Dec. 3rd, was initiated by the American Association of Family Consumer Science. Why? Besides increasing the nutritional value of you and your child’s dinners, eating together has other benefits as well.
Research has shown that when families eat together three or more meals a week, children, including teens have lower levels of depressive symptoms, according to Cornell University.
Family meals have many different meanings for various research projects. Research has shown there are varying benefits if you eat together more often than not. However, most studies have found that medium and high levels, which is three or more day per week, give the most positive benefits for children.
Here are a few ways to improve family mealtime from Cornell University. First, set a goal to have regular family meals at least three times per week. If not possible, try to substitute family dinners with shared breakfast or snacks that allow your family to gather more regularly.
Second, do not fret if dinnertime is chaotic. It is the feelings of closeness and comfort that may provide your child with stability.
Finally, yet importantly, the quality of the meal is just as important as the number of meals eaten together. Everyone needs to turn off cell phones and the television, too. Parents and children need to connect by sharing their day’s activities. “Tell me about your classes today. Which was the most difficult and why” or “What did you eat for lunch at school? Who did you sit next to?” It is important to keep communication flowing at family mealtimes. Leave the word “you” at the back door. Keep the word “I” more prevalent in conversation.
Many experts encourage health-conscious folks to plan their dinners prior to the day to help reduce the stress of a hurry up decision. There are other reasons for planning what you and/or your family are going to eat ahead of time.
Planning also shortens the number of trips to the grocery store. Make a list of foods you need and check what you have on hand.
Planning ahead also saves time. You will save defrosting time by thawing frozen foods in the refrigerator. Use a crock-pot or a one-dish recipe to save clean-up time.
If you feel like you do not have time to make dinner three nights a week, then take 15 minutes to hold a family discussion to plan the meals and share the responsibility of food prep and cleanup.
Celebrate Dine in Day on Dec. 3 and reap the benefits of family mealtime.
Here is an easy to make one-dish dinner. Add low fat milk, a salad and whole grain bread to complete the meal.
One-Dish Rosemary Chicken and White Beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs (about 1 pound)
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped- optional
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine rosemary and pepper; sprinkle over one side of chicken. Place chicken in pan with seasoned side down, cook 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and turn chicken. Add tomatoes and beans, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in olives.
Serve with dark green leafy salad and or broccoli. This meal would give the dark green, orange – red and dry beans and pea’s recommendation for vegetables.
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.