Why Your Kids Need Family Meals Together

Family Meals Matter

Want to give your kids a boost in life? Then sit down at the table and eat together as a family more often. At least three family meals together every week provides benefits that will last a lifetime. That’s right – just three. You don’t even need to eat together every single day like my childhood friends did – they grew up on farms and daily family dinners were as much a priority as feeding the cows and pigs. Three ways your kids get a boost:

 

  1. Better Behavior and Development

*Higher grades and better academic performance

*Higher self-esteem and greater resilience

*Greater sense of security and connection within the family

*Have a closer relationship to parents and siblings

*Greater understanding and acknowledgment of boundaries and expectations set by parents

*More likely to follow those boundaries and expectations

*More likely to exhibit positive social behaviors such as respect, sharing and fairness

*Less likely to show symptoms of depression, violence and suicide

*Better able to resist negative peer pressure

*Decrease in high-risk behaviors such as drug use, smoking, sexual activity and delinquent acts

*Lower risk of teen pregnancy

*Less likely to develop disordered eating behaviors

Frequent family meals provides connection and fosters emotional balance with your children and teenagers. Three family meals every week is all it takes – the benefits increase even more with each additional family meal.

 

  1. Healthier Eating Habits

*Healthier eating patterns overall

*Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables

*Higher intake of nutrients needed for proper growth such as protein, calcium and numerous vitamins and minerals.

*More likely to maintain a healthier weight/weight range

*Less likely to have eating disorders and disordered eating

Every meal your family eats together is an opportunity for your kids to learn from YOU – their role model for lifelong food habits – about the importance of regular meals and balanced choices. You can teach them how to have a positive and loving relationship with food, rather than a negative and fear-filled one. You can teach them table manners, too, like napkins on your lap, not chewing with your mouth open and not talking with food in your mouth. You KNOW those will serve them well down the road in social situations.

 

  1. Conversation Skills

*Greater ability to be an active listener and participant in meaningful conversations

*Enhanced language development

*More likely to have expanded vocabulary

*Better able to express their own opinions and have active voice within the family

In spite of all the technology today, your kids still need to learn how to actually carry a conversation. Meaningfully. Longer than just one sentence. Sitting at the dinner table together gives them this opportunity.

Notice I said sitting at the table. Sitting on the couch or floor in the living room every night with the TV blaring – even as a family – is not the type of togetherness that creates positive outcomes with behavior and conversation.  A calm and pleasant environment is best, so smart phones and mobile devices should be off, too.

Sample “conversation starters:”

*What’s the funniest/strangest/best thing that happened to you today?

*What’s your perfect day? What would you do and who would be with you?
*Name two places you’d like to go for family summer/winter vacation and why.

*What famous person(s) do you respect and admire? And why?

*If you were principal of your school, what would you do different?

family meals, three family meals together, eating together

 

How to Get Started Eating More Family Meals

*Decide you value eating meals together.

*Make it a family priority.

*Every Sunday, discuss which three meals that week you’ll all eat together. Yes, we’re all crazy busy with work, school, after-school activities, volunteer and community activities. But if you value this family time, you’ll figure out what days and times work. It can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. My childhood farmer friends also enjoyed big Sunday midday meals with extended family. Friends, too. That’s how I know about their tradition!

*Get input from everyone on what to eat/serve. Always include foods you know your kids like, but also be adventurous with new foods.

*Create fun theme nights, like Italian, Mexican, Asian, pasta, soup + salad, cheesy comfort food night. Maybe even breakfast for dinner night with eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits. Or my favorite – leftovers night. Great way to teach how to enjoy leftovers and cut down on food waste.

*Get everyone involved in shopping, meal prep and clean-up. Even more lifelong skills and lessons plus expanded family time.

*Never lose sight of the fact that family meals are one of the best things you can do to help your kids grow into healthy, happy adults.

Disclosure: As a proud supporter of Indiana Agriculture and Farmers, I’m happy to mention this is a sponsored post for The Glass Barn. All content/opinions created solely by me. The Glass Barn is a physical and online resource providing educational materials on Indiana farming to educators and students; it’s funded by the soybean checkoff. You can visit the Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

 Resources for scientific research and statistics supporting family meals: American College of Pediatricians, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Cornell University Food & Brand Lab, Food Marketing Institute, Bell Institute of Health & Wellness, Numerous University Extension Agencies and the Journal of Pediatric Health)

 

 

Living downtown Indianapolis = Super Sized Excitement

Living in downtown Indianapolis right now is one mega, super-sized serving of excitement.  That’s right – I live less than a mile from Lucas Oil Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLVI on February 5. Since Super Bowl is apparently the #2 eating event for Americans, I’d like to share my ideas for serving great-tasting, nutrient-rich and decadent foods for this super-sized occasion.  

Menu
Smoky Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle-Lime Mayonnaise on Whole Grain Mini Buns

Good Luck Salsa with Whole Grain Corn Tortilla Chips

Bacon Apple Football Cheeseball

Pork tenderloin stars as the lean protein choice to provide satiety and an excellent source of certain B-vitamins; it’s also a good source of zinc. Black-eyed peas, a fiber-filled legume, star in the savory salsa that will bring Good Luck to your team. And decadent bacon stars in the dried-apple studded, calcium-rich sweet-savory cheeseball shaped like a football.

Disclosure: I’m a culinary-nutrition consultant to restaurants and numerous public relations representing one or more foods/beverages included in this post and several agriculture organizations.

 

Smoky Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

2 pork tenderloins, about 2 to 2 1/3 pounds total

Smoky Rub

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine all smoky rub ingredients in small bowl and stir well. Completely cover pork tenderloins with rub. Roast for 20 to 27 minutes, or until temperature in center of pork is 145 degrees. Remove pork and let rest 3 minutes before slicing. Serve with chipotle lime mayo on whole grain buns. Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

Find more inspiration with lean pork, bacon and side-dishes for your Super Bowl Party at www.PorkBeInspired.com

Good Luck Salsa

2 cans (15 – 16 oz.) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 – 16 oz.) white and yellow sweet corn, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, drained

1 to 1 ½ jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely minced

¼ to 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

¾ cup finely chopped red onion

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ to 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine peas, corn, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and onion in large bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables, stirring to combine and coat. Refrigerate a couple hours before serving. Enjoy with whole-grain corn chips. Makes about 6 cups, or 24 servings of 1/4 cup each.

Living downtown Indianapolis = Super Sized Excitement

Living in downtown Indianapolis right now is one mega, super-sized serving of excitement.  That’s right – I live less than a mile from Lucas Oil Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLVI on February 5. Since Super Bowl is apparently the #2 eating event for Americans, I’d like to share my ideas for serving great-tasting, nutrient-rich and decadent foods for this super-sized occasion.  

 

Menu
Smoky Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle-Lime Mayonnaise on Whole Grain Mini Buns

Good Luck Salsa with Whole Grain Corn Tortilla Chips

Bacon Apple Football Cheeseball

 

Pork tenderloin stars as the lean protein choice to provide satiety and an excellent source of certain B-vitamins; it’s also a good source of zinc. Black-eyed peas, a fiber-filled legume, star in the savory salsa that will bring Good Luck to your team. And decadent bacon stars in the dried-apple studded, calcium-rich sweet-savory cheeseball shaped like a football.

 

Disclosure: I’m a culinary-nutrition consultant to restaurants and numerous public relations representing one or more foods/beverages included in this post and several agriculture organizations.

 

Smoky Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

 

2 pork tenderloins, about 2 to 2 1/3 pounds total

Smoky Rub

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

 

Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine all smoky rub ingredients in small bowl and stir well. Completely cover pork tenderloins with rub. Roast for 20 to 27 minutes, or until temperature in center of pork is 145 degrees. Remove pork and let rest 3 minutes before slicing. Serve with chipotle lime mayo on whole grain buns. Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

 

Find more inspiration with lean pork, bacon and side-dishes for your Super Bowl Party at www.PorkBeInspired.com

 

Good Luck Salsa

 

2 cans (15 – 16 oz.) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 – 16 oz.) white and yellow sweet corn, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, drained

1 to 1 ½ jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely minced

¼ to 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

¾ cup finely chopped red onion

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ to 1 teaspoon ground cumin

 

Combine peas, corn, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and onion in large bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables, stirring to combine and coat. Refrigerate a couple hours before serving. Enjoy with whole-grain corn chips. Makes about 6 cups, or 24 servings of 1/4 cup each.

 

 

 

Stir-fry for Three

One cooking experience + two adults = three meals.

Day 1: Cook whole-grain brown rice on the stove-top while you’re cutting, chopping and prepping nutrient-rich vegetables and lean protein-rich chicken breasts. Stir-fry the veggies and chicken in an electric wok. Eat and enjoy.

Day 2: Heat and enjoy leftovers for Dinner.

 Day 3: Heat and enjoy remaining leftovers for Lunch.

 Only one day of prep and cooking, yet three meals filled with whole-grain goodness and antioxidant-rich vegetables!  That’s what I call a real timesaver.

 And that’s exactly what I did the other night. I made this huge batch of stir-fry Tuesday night, and my husband Jeff and I enjoyed it for dinner Wednesday and finished the remaining leftovers for lunch yesterday.

 I’m already brainstorming for new meat and vegetable combinations….maybe even a different sauce. Oh, speaking of sauces. Don’t think you have to make them from scratch. Take advantage of the prepared bottled sauces in the Asian section at your supermarket. Aside from the canned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts – which I drained – that bottled sauce and a few shakes of Lite soy sauce were the only higher sodium ingredients in the stir-fry. I call that balance.

 Very Veggie Stir Fry

1 ¾ – 2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces or chunks

1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets

¾ lb. snow pea pods, string removed

1 can (8oz.) bamboo shoots

1 can (8oz.) sliced water chestnuts

8 oz. baby carrots, cut into long thin slices

2 medium onions, cut into big chunks

3 to 6 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 bottle (15 oz.) General Tso’s Sauce, added incrementally

Crushed red pepper

Lower sodium soy sauce*

Several tablespoons canola or peanut oil

Cooked brown rice

 Heat a couple tablespoons oil in a large wok; add chicken chunks and stir-fry until cooked throughout. Remove to a large bowl or plate, cover and set aside. Add another tablespoon or so oil to the wok along with the garlic. Heat until garlic starts to soften, then add carrots and stir-fry a couple minutes. Add onion and stir-fry another minute. Add a little sauce. Add broccoli and snow peas, stir-fry until barely tender. Add a little more sauce, along with canned vegetables and crushed red pepper. Continue to stir constantly, until vegetables are desired crisp-tenderness. Add remaining sauce and a few drops of lite soy sauce, along with cooked chicken and stir-fry everything until well blended and heated throughout. Enjoy over brown rice.

 Serve two adults for three meals.

Comfort Food Balance: Soup & Biscuits

Aside from being incredibly nutrient-rich, lentil soup is very low fat. So it’s the perfect time to enjoy biscuits, which are typically higher in fat.

Lentil soup is so easy to make and unlike other legumes, dry lentils don’t need soaking beforehand. A basic lentil soup recipe (lentils, onions, carrots, celery, diced tomatoes) is done in about 50 minutes. While it simmers, you can whip up a batch of delectable Cheddar Chipotle Biscuits!  

Many different ingredients complement a basic lentil soup, from potatoes and low-fat kielbasa or smoked sausage, to leafy greens like kale, spinach or Swiss chard.

No one will realize these Cheddar Chipotle Biscuits are 100% whole grain, made with my favorite white whole wheat flour from King Arthur. Using slightly less butter (5 tablespoons instead of eight) and 2% reduced fat cheddar cheese (instead of full fat) keeps the fat under control….a bit. Remember, biscuits are supposed to be higher fat, and you’re balancing it with the lower fat soup.

Hearty Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced carrot

1½ tablespoons minced garlic

16 oz. lentils, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth

8 cups water

2 cups diced, unpeeled red potatoes

One package (12 oz) reduced fat smoked sausage or kielbasa, cut into chunks

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a large (8 quart) stock pot over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook until just tender. Stir in the lentils, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in diced potatoes and reduced fat sausage and simmer additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until lentils and potatoes are tender. Stir balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve warm.  

 Makes about 15 cups soup (8 servings of 1¾ cups each)

 Cheddar Chipotle Biscuits

2 cups white whole wheat flour (suggest King Arthur brand)

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons cold, unsalted, diced butter

2 cups shredded reduced-fat 2% sharp cheddar cheese (1 bag – 8oz)

½ cup whole milk

1 large egg

1½ tablespoons finely minced, canned chipotle chilies in adobo

 Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with fork, pastry cutter or fingers until no pieces are larger than small peas. Stir shredded cheese into flour mixture with a fork until thoroughly combined. Combine milk, egg and chipotle chilies in a separate small bowl; mix well. Add to flour-cheese mixture and stir with fork just until combined, about 45 strokes; don’t over-mix. Form mixture into a ball in bowl, gathering up all the loose flour pieces and pressing into ball. Knead about 10 times lightly in bowl. Turn out onto lightly floured surface; pat into ¾-inch circle. Cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter and place on ungreased baking sheet. Pat scraps into another ¾-inch circle, being careful not to incorporate hardly any flour into dough, and cut. Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove biscuits from pan immediately and cool on wire rack. Store in tightly covered container or zippered bag.

 Makes 16 biscuits.