Create Family Mealtime // 4 Tips for Success

Create Family Mealtime

We know eating together as a family is important, but sometimes it can be tough. Try these tips to make your family meals a success, and make an effort to eat together as a family during National Family Mealtime month in September.


With school starting, it may feel like your family is getting pulled in all directions.  Piano practice, football games, swim team tryouts, school projects, and study groups may be filling up your family’s schedule.  An important way to keep your family connected in busy times is having meals together.  Family meals have been associated with improved diets, academic performance and vocabularies. They also decrease the risk of children experiencing depression, eating disorders, and drug/alcohol use.

This may be why September has been declared National Family Mealtime month, and Healthy Family Meals month in Utah. Here are some tips that can help make family mealtime a habit.

  1. Plan and prioritize. Make family mealtime a priority by planning it in your day.  Plan when, where, and what you will be eating.  Let your family know that it is important for everyone to be present.  Take time each month (or a few times a month) to plan your meals.  This can help you save time and money throughout the month.
  2. Make it work for your family.  Is family dinnertime not working?  Try family breakfast, lunch, or afterschool snack time.  Just take time to sit together, share a healthy meal (or snack), and connect as a family.
  3. Ditch the electronics.   With so much socializing happening online, we can lose touch with the art of conversation.  Help your family spend time together undistracted by turning off or putting away cell phones and other electronic devices.  Parents, this includes your devices too!
  4. Keep it simple and fun.  Family mealtime doesn’t need to be a source of stress.  By planning your meal and involving the whole family in the prep and cleanup, you can keep it from being a burden.  Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself that it has to be a certain way (see tip # 2).  Use this time to talk about your days and fun memories.  Avoid discussing topics that may lead to contention: discipline, etc.

Equipped with these tips, we invite you to take the pledge to start the habit of more family mealtimes this September.

For more family mealtime tips, check out our resources at CreateBetterHealth.usu.edu.


This article was written by LaCee Jimenez, Food $ense (SNAP-Ed) Coordinator with Utah State University Extension




How to have Themed Family Mealtime

themed mealtime.jpg


Enjoying a family meal is a great way for families to bond and create lifelong memories, however it is something that some families struggle to do five or more times a week. A themed family meal can get all family members involved and put a spin on an everyday, mundane event. Here are some fun ways to start having family mealtimes or if you already have family mealtimes, change up the routine!

1. Have one night a week dedicated to a theme, i.e. Taco Tuesday, Meatless Monday, Wok Wednesday, Western Wednesdays, etc.

2. Try adding decorations to your meal to really get your family involved. Put a red and white checkered tablecloth on the floor and have your own picnic inside (if weather permits go all out and have a picnic outside).

3. Highlight a holiday each month and have a meal centered around it. For example, cook green foods or traditional Irish cuisine for St. Patrick’s Day.

4. Travel the world by cooking traditional dishes from different countries. Add some fun facts from that country for interesting family table talk!

5. Make it a whole night. Dinner and a movie -have dinner, some movie theater treats, and then watch a movie together. Try tying your movie into your dinner theme, like fried chicken and What About Bob?, or spaghetti with Lady and the Tramp.

6. Your very own chopped! Provide three ingredients to family members and let them come up with a meal for the whole family with other ingredients in the kitchen.

This month try something new with your family. Here are a few recipes to kick start your own St. Patrick’s Day themed dinner— or you could go with the classic corned beef and cabbage!

Irish Stew

  • 2 lbs stewing steak cut into small pieces
  • 8 large potatoes, diced
  • 4 to 6 large carrots, diced
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef and add to stewing pot or slow cooker along with juices. Add potatoes, salt and pepper, and 4 quarts water (more or less, as desired). Bring to a boil. Add carrots and onions. Simmer on low for 1 to 2 hours until potatoes can be pierced with a fork.

Optional variations: Add 1 to 2 cups of diced celery with carrots and onions. Add 1 to 2 tsp of dried thyme with potatoes. Use beef broth in place of water. If desired, you can add a little flour mixed with water (a roux) to the simmering soup about 20 – 30 minutes before serving to thicken broth, but traditionally, it is a fairly thin soup.

Recipe Source

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ Cup butter, softened
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ Cup butter, melted
  • ¼ Cup buttermilk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and softened butter. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.

3. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness after 30 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Colcannon (Irish Potatoes and Cabbage)

  • 6 medium potatoes, washed, peeled (optional) and quartered
  • 2 cups grated cabbage
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 stems of green onion, chopped

Add potatoes to a large pot of boiling, salted water, and cook until tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. When the potatoes have cooked 15 minutes, add the cabbage and continue boiling until the potatoes are fork tender. Right before draining the potatoes and cabbage, add the chopped green onion and cook for one minute. Drain the potatoes and mash them. Add the milk and butter. Adjust milk if potatoes are too dry.

Recipe Source

Key Lime Meringue Pie

One baked 9-inch pie crust of your choice

Key Lime Curd:

  • Finely grated zest from 4 limes
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Green food coloring, if desired.

In top of double boiler, whisk lime zest, lime juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and salt. Whisk constantly until the mixture becomes thick, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter one piece at a time until smooth. Add a few drops of food coloring for a brighter green, if desired. Strain curd through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl. Line the surface of the curd with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Whip cream to soft peaks and fold into the chilled curd. Pour into completely cooled pie crust.

Meringue:

  • Egg whites from 4 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375° F with the rack positioned about 8-inches from the top of the oven. Beat egg whites for about 5 minutes and gradually add granulated and powdered sugars in a slow and steady stream. Add vanilla and salt. Increase the speed and beat for about 10 minutes or until the meringue becomes very thick.

Spread the meringue over the curd and cover up to the edges of the curd and crust. Swirl and create peaks using a spatula. Place pie plate on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating it halfway through the baking time. Meringue peaks should be a beautiful light golden brown with white “valleys”. Completely cool pie on a wire rack before chilling in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Best served the same day it is made.

Recipe Source 


By: Jaqueline Neid-Avila, RDN, CD Extension Nutrition Assistant Professor




Family Mealtime // Meal Planning 101

meal-planning-101


A key to successful family mealtime is planning. Research has shown that cooking at home is significantly more likely if you already know what you will have for dinner.


10 Steps to Meal Planning

  1. Set aside time each week for menu planning. The amount of time you need will decrease as you gain practice.
  2. Ask your family for ideas of what they would like to eat during the week.
  3. Plan your menu around food items you already have in the pantry.
  4. Choose a variety of meals including family favorites, budget stretchers, and quick fix meals.
  5. Cook once, eat twice.
  6. Plan to use your leftovers.
  7. Picture USDA’s MyPlate as you plan each meal.
  8. Have your local store circulars available. Take advantage of those sales!
  9. Create a thorough shopping list.
  10. Keep it simple! Successful family meals don’t have to be gourmet; they just have to be a time together.

F$BasicsMenuPlanningHandout

Printable Weekly Menu Planner

Quick Tips

Tired of planning a menu every week? Try planning a 2-4 week cycle menu. Choose meals for 2—4 weeks and then repeat once the cycle is over. Change cycle menus with the seasons to take advantage of local produce.

Bored of the same old meals? Add some theme nights to your week. Taco Tuesdays, Breakfast for Dinner Thursdays, or Sandwich Saturdays are fun for the whole family. Let the kids choose a theme and then make some table decorations for added entertainment.

 


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 




Family Mealtime // Easy Minestrone Soup

Easy Minestrone Soup.jpg


Warm up this fall with a bowl of minestrone soup. Recipe from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition.


Minestrone Soup

Adapted from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition

  • 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 ½ cups zucchini, diced
  • ¾ cup celery, sliced
  • ½ cup carrot, diced
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. Creole seasoning
  • ½ cup uncooked penne, or other small pasta

Place one can of kidney beans in a food processor and process until smooth.* Spoon bean puree into a heavy pot; stir in remaining can of beans, water, zucchini, celery, carrot, tomatoes, and Creole seasoning. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in pasta; cook uncovered an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.

 

*Note: If you do not have a food processor you can mash the beans in a bowl with the bottom of a glass, or use a blender or immersion blender.

 


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 




Family Mealtime // Overnight Oatmeal 3 Ways

overnight-oatmeal


Looking for a make-ahead breakfast to streamline your family’s morning routine? Try overnight oatmeal, and spend your morning eating together instead of scrambling to cook breakfast.


Peach Overnight Oats

Adapted from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition

  • 8 oz. containers (pint sized mason jars work well)

Per container:

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sliced peaches (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp. honey, or other sweetener
  • sprinkle of cinnamon

 

To each container add oats, milk, vanilla, peaches, sweetener, and cinnamon in the amounts listed above, and cover with lids. Place filled containers in the refrigerator and let sit overnight. Oats will absorb the milk and some juice from the peaches. Enjoy in the morning!

Variations

Pumpkin Pie: in place of peaches, mix 1/2 cup canned pumpkin with 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Spoon desired amount into jar (1/4-1/2 cup) before refrigerating, and top with chopped pecans before eating.

Any Season Berry: sub 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries for peaches.

Other Ideas: Try adding in chia seeds or ground flaxseed to your oats, adding more liquid as needed. Try substituting nut milk or part Greek yogurt in the recipe, and add fruits, nuts and seeds as desired to customize the flavors.

 


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 




Family Mealtime // Crispy Granola 3 Ways

granola


Family mealtime can be anytime- why not at breakfast? Mix up some delicious granola on the weekend for a fast and easy weekday family breakfast option. Use your family’s favorite mix-ins, or try one of our suggested variations.


Crispy Granola

Adapted from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 3 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins, or other dried fruit (option)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Put egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Stir in honey, cinnamon, and salt. Add oats and all other ingredients (except dried fruit). Stir until ingredients are coated with egg mixture. Spread mixture on baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from pan, add dried fruit if using, and cool completely. Granola will continue to crisp as it cools. Store in an airtight container.

Variations

Pumpkin Spice: substitue pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, pure maple syrup for the honey, use pumpkin seeds for nuts, and add 1 tablespoon chia seeds.

Tropical Crunch: use macadamia nuts, yogurt covered raisins and/or chopped dried pineapple.

Cherry Garcia: use sliced almonds, dried cherries, and add semisweet chocolate chips when granola is cool.

 


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 




Family Mealtime // Conversation Starters

conversation-starters-graphic


Break the silence at the dinner table with these fun conversation starters! 


10 Questions to Get Your Family Talking

Struggling to find something to talk about? Read through these conversation starters at each meal to get the chatter rolling. Create some crazy questions of your own when these run out.

  • If you were in the circus, what circus act would you perform?
  • If you could do anything all day, everyday, what would it be?
  • If you could fly in a hot air balloon over any place in the world, where would you go?
  • If you had to wear a hat everyday, what type of hat would you choose?
  • Share your favorite tradition for each of the four seasons.
  • If you could choose one super power to have, what would you choose?
  • What is a new food you would like to try?
  • Name three famous people you would like to have dinner with.
  • What is your favorite vegetable?
  • What is your favorite outside activity?

 

Did you know?

Children who participate in consistent family mealtimes perform better academically and develop larger vocabularies.


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 




Family Mealtime // Apple Cranberry Crisp

apple-crisp


Families who eat together have overall healthier diets, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in a sweet treat every now and then at end of your family meal. There are three healthy, delicious dessert recipes in the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. Today we’re sharing one of them- Apple Cranberry Crisp. This is a perfect dessert for autumn, as local apples are in season and abundant at farmers markets. 


Apple Cranberry Crisp

Filling

  • 5 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping

  • 1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

in a 2 quart baking dish, combine apples and cranberries. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and toss to coat.

In a small bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Using a fork, cut butter into topping mixture until crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over apple filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until apples are tender. Serve warm.


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 




“Mom, What Can I Eat?” // Nutritious After-school Snack Ideas

Snack Ideas

 


 

 

All family members can benefit from planned healthy snacks.  Planned snacks provide more nutrition and energy for work, growth, learning and play.


 

Prep Your Pantry

Build a weekly snack menu and that “what is there to eat?” question won’t be heard as often.

Here are a few snack ideas that can add good nutrition to your family’s diet.

  • Fruits and berries
  • Low fat chips and salsa
  • Grape tomatoes and vegetables
  • Frozen banana chips
  • Low fat yogurt smoothies
  • Cereal mix
  • Whole grain crackers and breads
  • Applesauce and cottage cheese
  • Graham crackers
  • Mini pizza on English muffin or pita
  • Low fat cheese
  • Low fat pita and hummus
  • Fruit juice pops
  • Light popcorn
  • Ants on a log (stuffed celery)
  • Cheese sticks

Fruit Peanut Butter Pizza

1 pizza crust

1 cup peanut butter

3 sliced bananas

¾ cup raisins or dried cranberries

½ cup chopped apples

 

Bake crust according to package directions. Spread peanut butter on crust and add the fruits.  Bake at 350 until the peanut butter melts.


This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension associate professor, carolyn.washburn@usu.edu.




Ask an Expert: 6 Tips to Create Successful Family Mealtimes

Successful Family Mealtime Graphic

Success in school could be as easy as having family dinner each night. Find out why, and get six tips on how to make that family mealtime happen.


 

With back to school right around the corner, parents and children are hopeful for a successful school year. Parents would go to any length to help their children achieve in all aspects of life; socially, emotionally and academically. But what if all it took to help children succeed was an hour or even less on most days of the week? Taking just one hour of your day to share a meal with your family has benefits that reach well beyond the dining room table.

Research suggests that children who regularly participate in family mealtimes perform better academically, develop larger vocabularies and have better communication skills than children who do not eat as a family (Utter et al., 2013, Quarmby, T. & Dagkas, S., 2013). These same children are also more likely to have overall healthier diets, consume more fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy body weight and struggle with disordered eating less frequently (Gillman, 2000). They are also less likely to engage in risky behavior such as tobacco, drug and alcohol use (Utter et al., 2013).  Families experience stronger family bonds and have more positive interactions when they enjoy meals together (Utter et al., 2013). Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Despite all of these documented benefits, tight schedules and budgets often keep families from having meals together as often as they would like. Follow the tips below to create enjoyable and successful family mealtimes in your home.

  1. Plan meals ahead of time. If you already know what you are going to make, you will be more likely to actually do it. Planning also helps ensure you have all the ingredients you need.
  1. Schedule a set time for meals. Knowing that dinner is at 6 p.m. will allow family members to schedule other activities around dinnertime. But, remember family mealtime isn’t just for dinner. If everyone is more available on weekend mornings, make breakfast your family meal.
  1. Involve family members in the meal planning, preparation and clean-up. This lightens the load for everyone. Having family members involved in the planning will also ensure that everyone has at least some meals they like during the week.
  1. Unplug for dinner. No television, phones or other devices allowed. Family mealtimes are beneficial because it is a time for your family to share about the day and reconnect with each other through conversation.
  1. Keep conversation at family meals positive. Try to keep family mealtimes an enjoyable experience. They are not the best place for disciplining children or arguing with spouses. Try using a conversation jar with fun topics to keep the chatter light and enjoyable.
  1. Keep it simple. Family mealtimes do not have to be gourmet; they just have to be together. Find ideas and recipes for simple, healthy meals on the Food $ense website, extension.usu.edu/foodsense.

 


This article was written by Casey Coombs, RD, CD; Policy, Systems, and Environments Coordinator, Utah State University Food $ense, casey.coombs@usu.edu.

Sources:

Gillman, M. (2000). Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of Family Medicine, 9(3), 235-240.

Quarmby, T., & Dagkas, S. (2013). Informal mealtime pedagogies: Exploring the influence of family structure on young people’s healthy eating dispositions. Sport, Education and Society, 20(3), 323-339.

Utter, J., Denny, S., Robinson, E., Fleming, T., Ameratunga, S., & Grant, S. (2013). Family meals and the well-being of adolescents. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 49(11), 906-911.