By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
What’s for dinner? Where are we eating dinner? Do we even have time for dinner?
Between afterschool activities and lessons, healthy family dinners often take a back seat. Yet, family meals are so important, offering a time for sharing stories, learning manners and eating nutritious foods.1 Research shows that the benefits of the family meal for children and adolescents include: improved dietary intake, better weight management, healthier family communication, more balanced mental health and school performance, lowered risk of substance abuse and the prevention of disordered eating.1,2
Despite these benefits, eating a meal as a family can become the last thing on the agenda. However, with proper planning you can make time for family meals throughout the week.
Here are a few simple tips and meal ideas to help you feed your family some healthy options and give everyone more time to enjoy each other’s company.
Don’t think that you need to make complicated meals 7 days a week. Think about what the busier days are during your week. On those days, keep it simple and make meals that only have a few ingredients.
Tip: Try this simple Chicken Quesadilla recipe
- 4 oz chicken breast (about ½ a breast); sliced along the grain
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
- ½ cup (125 mL) corn
- ½ red pepper
- 1 jalapeño
- ½ cup (125 mL) cheese blend (for example: a medium cheddar mixed with spicy Monterey Jack and regular Monterey Jack)
- 2 tortillas
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- In a skillet, cook the chicken breast until cooked through or chicken reaches internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Set aside.
- Add olive oil to the skillet and sauté corn, and red pepper. Add chicken and jalapeño (to taste).
- Layer one tortilla with the chicken mixture. Add cheese blend.
- Add the second tortilla on top.
- Bake quesadillas in preheated oven until cheese has melted (~10 minutes)
- Cut and serve.
This is a big time saver! Making a larger batch of a main ingredient gives you leftovers that you can use to make other meals throughout the week.
Tip: At the start of the week make 1 or 2 roast chickens. Cooked chicken can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. That gives you plenty of opportunity to use the leftovers in a stir-fry, chicken Caesar wrap or chicken sandwiches!
This is a super easy recipe for a roasted chicken that can be the base for multiple meals: Express Roast Lemon Chicken.
Ask for help in the kitchen. Even world-renowned chefs have line cooks!
Think about the meals that you would like to make throughout the week and divide tasks. Here are some examples:
- If you are going to be working late and there is someone at home, have the meal already prepared (like a casserole). Ask the person at home to pop it in the oven so it’s ready when you arrive.
- Have one person make the salad, while the other person sets the table and works on the main course.
- Find family-friendly recipes, like tacos, that can be prepared together in a fun, relaxed manner.
Slow Cook It!
Use a slow cooker – the best invention for busy people! This way of cooking is ideal if you want a nutritious meal that is quick and ready to serve right when you step through the door.
Try this Thai-Style Sweet Chili Chicken that takes only 10 minutes to prep and will be a perfect family meal for when you get home from a busy day:
Less time cooking and worrying about “What’s for dinner?” during the week means more time enjoying mealtime and family time. Enjoy your family meals!
- Forthun, L. (2012). Family Nutrition: The Truth About Family Meals. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY106100.pdf
- Hunter, C. (2009). Eat Together – Rediscovering the Family Meal. Retrieved October 2, 2012, fromwww.moreaboutmilk.com/downloads/educators_pdf/May2009NFFHE.pdf