Aug 24 2011
It’s after 6 pm, you just walked in and have a hungry family to feed. Many American families solve the nightly dinner dilemma by grabbing drive-through, eating pizza or fending for themselves before splitting up to spend the evening doing homework, answering e-mails, or watching television. Most families recognize the family meal to be important they just need some help making it work. I have found preplanning and keeping the refrigerator or freezer stocked with ready- to cook food is one important strategy.
Keep in mind perfection is not the goal -the real goal is spending time together and reconnecting. It won’t be a surprise to any of us to hear time constraints, and “picky eaters” are common obstacles to the family meal. To make family meals happen turn off the television, cell phones and computers. Reducing screen time and eating family meals has a secondary benefit of reducing the risk of obesity http://www.adajournal.org/article/S0002-8223(06)02282-6/abstract
Here are some meal planning ideas I suggest for busy families:
- Preplan meals and cook on the weekend so you have a ready-to-heat meal during the week.
- Buy something pre-made a rotisserie chicken for example then balance the meal with a side dish, and a salad.
- You can do the same with fast food too, buy a sandwich or burger on the way home and serve it with a fruit plate and cooked frozen or fresh vegetables.
- Keep ingredients for “emergency meals” on hand, have eggs for a quick omelet, frozen meat, poultry, or fish and an assortment of vegetables canned, fresh or frozen .
- To keep the meal balanced always serve a fruit or vegetable or both with every menu.
- Involve the whole family in meal planning, ask children to grade vegetables, A-F, to determine those they like.
- For the picky eaters always serve something you know they will eat that might be bread and butter or pasta and cheese. If you know the vegetable won’t be popular put out a bunch of grapes or a bowl of sliced fruit.
- If dinner doesn’t work try breakfast as the family meal. To make breakfast successful preplan the night before, have the ingredients for scrambled eggs and toast ready to go and serve with a fruit salad, a sliced grapefruit or frozen fruit defrosted in the refrigerator overnight or try the recipe for my family’s favorite called Blueberry Puff
Once dinner is on the table sit down, and ignore the dishes or laundry until after the meal. Mealtime presents a good way to catch up, but sometimes that’s easier said then done. To find out how the day went ask everyone to list their high and low points as a conversation starter. To keep meals pleasant don’t focus on who is eating what, focus on basic manners and good behavior. Then enjoy your meal and your family.