The Power of the Family Meal

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mealtime is a perfect way to catch up with your family. With varying schedules between work and school, finding the time can often prove quite challenging. Dinnertime isn’t always the shared meal in my house, rather breakfast and our evening snack is the easiest time for us to sit down together. In a recent report conducted by Welch’s, many American families say that one of their favorite parts of the day is a shared family meal despite their busy schedules.

The Kitchen Table Report
Welch’s recently surveyed families to find out how often, and in what capacity, they were connecting around mealtimes and the kitchen table. The results indicated that despite the hustle and bustle of everyday life, American families still try to make time for shared meals. Some interesting facts from the study:

  • 71% of parents said their families eat dinner together as often as or more today than their families did when they were children.
  • 75% of parents reported that, in an average week, they eat together four or more nights and 34% eat together every night.
  • 84% stated that a shared family meal is one of their favorite parts of their day.
  • 75% said that most meals and snacks consumed as a family occur in the kitchen.

 

Family Mealtime Anytime
Family mealtime is a top priority for parents, but 4 out of 10 parents surveyed stated that busy schedules sometimes still get in the way. Here are some way to incorporate mealtime benefits on jam-packed days.

  • Prepare for a quick breakfast: Set the table in the night before and put the box of cereal on the table. This cuts at least 5 minutes from the breakfast routine allowing your family the extra few minutes to chat.
  • Enjoy breakfast on the go: If you don’t have time to sit down for a formal breakfast, you can still enjoy a healthy well-balanced meal together. Smoothies, peanut butter sandwiches and low-fat yogurt are quick and easy on-the-go choices.
  • Converse while in transit: Family conversation doesn’t have to be limited to the kitchen table. Use time together on the train, in the car or walking home to ask your kids questions and exchange dialogue.
  • Make snack time count: Who says dinner is the only time a family meal can occur? As the official family “taxi cab”, I make my time in the car count with my kids. Transporting them from one activity to the next is the perfect time to provide a nutritious snack and ask about their day. Easy snack ideas: hummus and carrots, trail mix, fresh fruit, or whole grain cereal packed in a re-sealable bag.

 

Making the Most of Mealtimes

Chatting with my girls

Mealtime certainly proved to be a favorite part of the day for many of the parents surveyed. Make the most of this time together by:

  • Get the conversation going: One of my kids favorite conversation starters is a game called Table Topics. The game box includes many cards and each card has a different question to start great conversation at the table. Some of the questions  my kids discussed with my husband and I:
      • What would be on the menu for your ultimate birthday dinner?
      • In what ways are you generous?
      • Have you ever been teased at school?
      • What’s your favorite family tradition?
  • Involve the kids: Conversation isn’t the only way to get your kids involved at mealtime. Ask them to help you plan the menu or schedule a day each child can pick their favorite meal. Get them involved in meal prep, such as tearing lettuce for a salad or setting the table.
  • Go tech free: It’s sometimes impossible to get your child’s (or my husband’s) attention between the TV, mobile devices, tablets and laptops. Make a rule that all devices must be left outside the kitchen. Less distractions result in more eating and chatting.
  • Plan for leftovers: Finding ample time for both meal prep and a leisurely dinner may not happen every night. When you have the time, cook and freeze extra for easy leftovers.

 

Easy Shredded Chicken Tacos with Tomato and Grape Juice Salsa
Photo and recipe courtesy of Welch’s

Taco night is a HUGE hit in my house. My kids love putting together their tacos and it’s always fun to get a little messy.

Ingredients
Tacos:
8 6-inch corn tortilla, warmed
1 pound cooked shredded chicken
2 cups dark mixed greens
1 ½ cups Tomato and Grape Juice Salsa (recipe below)
Cilantro, if desired

Tomato and Grape Juice Salsa:
¾ cup low-sodium salsa
¾ cup Welch’s 100% Grape Juice made with Concord grapes
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 lime

Preparation

  1. Place corn tortillas in a 200°F oven to warm.
  2. While tortillas are warming, in a small saucepan stir together salsa, grape juice and cumin. Heat gently until warmed throughout.  Remove from heat. Add lime juice and stir to incorporate.
  3. Remove corn tortillas from oven. Top tortilla with mixed greens. Add chicken. Spoon salsa over the chicken. Add cilantro, if desired.

Serving suggestion: Serve tacos with ½ cup black beans and ½ cup brown rice for a balanced meal. Sauce can also be served with flank steak, fajita meat or over rice for added flavor.

Makes 8 servings

Nutrition per serving: (1 taco with sauce): 200 calories, 3 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 20 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 270 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber

Nutrition for sauce only (3 tablespoons): 15 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 35 milligrams sodium, less than 1 gram fiber

Let’s Chat: How do you fit family meals into your hectic lifestyle?

 

I am a consultant for Welch’s who sponsored this post. I also received the Family Table Topics game created by www.tabletopics.com.

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