While it can be difficult for busy families to find time to sit down together for daily family meals, research indicates that those families who eat together have a stronger bond, and children have higher self-confidence, enhanced vocabulary skills and score higher on academic tests.
With all of these benefits, make time to eat with your family, especially with the following tips from registered dietitians—the food and nutrition experts!
Quick guide to nutritious meals
Planning in advance saves you time and allows you the opportunity to pack your family meal with an extra nutritional punch. So before you head to the grocery, consider the following criteria for healthier options:
- Include at least one selection from each of the different food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein foods.
- Limit your intake of foods that are high in fat.
- Incorporate high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, dry beans, nuts and seeds.
For more information on the food groups, recommended portion sizes and much more, visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov or consult a registered dietitian.
Here’s a balanced and nutritious dinner that the entire family will love: Mediterranean chicken breast (a boneless, skinless chicken breast baked for 20 minutes with lemon juice and a pinch of oregano and topped with feta cheese); steamed broccoli; brown rice; vanilla low-fat yogurt topped with fresh berries; and a glass of water.
Make meals a family affair
Cooking a meal together not only gets everyone involved but it can also entice kids to try new foods, bolster their self-esteem, and promote their future health. For tips and recipes on preparing healthy meals with children, visit www.KidsEatRight.org.
And even if in a rush, families can still work together for meal preparation: adults can be in charge of the entrée, older kids can prepare the salad and little ones can set the table.
Before you get all hands on deck, teach your children about reducing the risk of foodborne illness by visiting www.HomeFoodSafety.org.
Finally, to make the most of your family meals, make conversation part of the dining experience and reduce distractions by turning off the TV and phones and tuning in to your loved ones.
Reviewed January 2013