Cathy Agan | 8/7/2014 8:35:31 PM
Family mealtime is much more than nourishing the body. It is also a time for families to communicate and grow closer. Family meals where everyone gathers around the dinner table at home are becoming fewer as families become busier. Many families often eat out three to four times per week, and often choose fast food. Unfortunately, family time and family health are diminishing as we eat out more often and are on the go.
Preparing and eating meals at home is an important step toward healthful eating. When we eat out, we usually eat larger portion sizes and end up consuming more calories, fat, and added sugars. Our plates at restaurants are often lacking fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, which should make the basis of a healthful plate.
So, what’s a busy family to do? Keep in mind that meals you prepare and eat at home do not have to be fancy, and you don’t have to be a gourmet cook to prepare a healthful meal. Preparing a simple, quick, and easy meal at home takes about as much time as driving to a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza. The key is to take time to plan ahead, shop effectively, prepare simple meals, and then eat together as a family.
If you want to prepare more meals at home, start out by planning meals for a week at a time based on your family’s schedule for the week. If you know you have a game or other activity one evening, don’t plan a meal for that night that takes hours to cook. Rather, plan a slow cooker meal or something quick and easy for before or after the event. If you need help with finding simple recipes, check out the online “Quick and Healthy Recipes” database from Families, Food, and Fitness. You can find the site at http://www.quickhealthyrecipes.msstate.edu/. This searchable database allows users to find recipes based on title, ingredient, meal type, season, low-fat, low-sodium, and low-calories. You can also find recipes that use minimal ingredients and have a quick preparation time. You can even create an account if you desire to save your favorite recipes. Make a list of groceries to buy after making your meal plan and taking stock of what you already have on hand.
Try to limit shopping trips to once a week by following your meal plan. Be sure to stick to your list so you don’t forget any items. Involve your kids by allowing them to choose a new fruit or vegetable they would like to try, and have kids help prepare meals or set the table. When it comes time for family meals, turn off the TV, cell phone, and other distractions. Enjoy your family and share events of the day while you enjoy a healthful meal together.