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Strengthen Families- Make Meal Time a Priority!

Making family meal time a priority can increase your children's self esteem.

Making family meal time a priority can increase your children’s self esteem.

In a recent book entitled The Surprising Power of Family Meals, author Miriam Weinstein asks this question:

“What if I told you that there was a magic bullet-something that would improve the quality of your daily life, your children’s chances of success in the world, (and) your family’s health…? Something that is inexpensive, simple to produce, and within the reach of pretty much everyone? (Weinstein, 2005, p. 1)”

You guessed it, that magic bullet is the family meal!  According to research, eating together as a family on a regular basis has some surprising effects. When sharing a meal together family bonds become stronger, children are better adjusted, family members eat more nutritional meals, they are less likely to be overweight, and they are less likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs. Given the positive benefits of eating together, why are more families not doing it?

It may come as a surprise to you that 71% of older children and teenagers consider talking/catching-up, and spending time with family members as the best part of family dinners. Family meals are a representation of the ethnic, cultural, or religious heritage of the family (Weinstein, 2005). A study found that children who knew a lot about their family history had a closer relationship to family members, higher self-esteem, and a great sense of control over their own lives (Duke, Fivush, Lazarus, & Bohanek, 2003).

With this in mind, why not make shared family meals a priority. Emphasize the importance of being together, not creating an elaborate meal that everyone will enjoy. Set regular meal times by writing them on the calendar. Let everyone know when dinner is served and when they must be home.

If the family is not used to eating together regularly, start small. At first, get used to eating together by scheduling family meals two or three days per week. Then, as the weeks progress, begin to have more and more regular meals.

Make family meals fun. Include children in the preparation of the meal and in the decision about what foods will be offered during the meal. Of course, parents have final say about what foods are prepared, but allowing the children to participate can create a fun environment.

  • Keep a sense of humor while at the dinner table.
  • Eliminate distractions, like TV, telephone, and cell phones.
  • Limit conversations to positive or neutral topics.
  • Be a good role model. Show children good etiquette and table manners.

Eating together as a family is more than just a meal, it is an opportunity for families to come together regularly in support of family unity. Although there is no guarantee that eating together as a family will resolve all family problems, it may provide the opportunity to make a fresh start. Do you have a passion for meal preparation or etiquette that you would like to share with the next generation?  Consider becoming a 4-H Volunteer!  Visit our website or contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.

For the more information on this topics please visit the EDIA website at, FCS8871.

Source Family Nutrition: The Truth about Family Meals, Larry Forthun


Time Saving Tips for the Kitchen

400My husband calls me the one-trip-wonder because of my stubborn refusal to make more than one trip in from the car regardless of the size or number of items needing to be carried in.  I know he thinks I’m crazy, but really, who has time to make 27 trips from the car to the house?  I guess it’s that same “who has time for this?” mentality that has also caused my friends to deem me the one-pot-wonder. Truly, if I can get it all in one pan, that’s less dishes I took the time to dig out, and certainly less to wash and put back. Love it!

So, perhaps that’s why I feel uniquely qualified to share a few recipes with you that should help you manage your time in the kitchen during this hectic time of year.  Don’t worry.  These are not one-pot-wonder recipes.  You will need to dig out an extra pot or two for veggies – canned, fresh, frozen – you’re choice.  But even with the extra dishes, the time these recipes save at the grocery and in the kitchen will totally be worth it.

  • Clam Linguine: I feed this to kids and they love it. Ingredients can be kept on hand at all times, so  it’s great for the “no time to hit the store” weeks.
  • Macaroni and Cheese Casserole: Another kid favorite. Brown the burger and throw it in the freezer in portioned out Ziploc bags. Now you have another dish on hand with ingredients that are always accessible.
  • Shell Macaroni Casserole: Again, kid approved. Given your already browned burger is frozen in the fridge, you’re golden for a night without stopping at the grocery AGAIN!
  • Crockpot Stroganoff: Easy peasy, but may require a grocery run if you don’t have some items frozen already.
  • Chicken Quesadillas: Another easy one to keep all ingredients on-hand. And… you guessed it: Kid favorite.

Bonus recipes: Great for potlucks, parties, and guests.

Printer Friendly Version: All Recipes Included

I hope you enjoy these recipes and their accompanying time-saving tips. But my greatest advice to you is to think of the dishes your family loves most and look for faster or easier ways to make them on busy nights. I don’t really cook like this all the time, but there are nights when I’m moving so fast I could leave Rachel Ray in the dust. When you have to, do it and don’t feel guilty. When you don’t, call the kids in and make meal prep a leisurely, family affair. It’s all about the ever-elusive balance we all seem to be looking for. Truthfully, we’re cooking like this because we care about our families. We want them to have hearty meals and time to enjoy them together. Sometimes, getting them turned out a little quicker is all that stands between us and letting that happen.  If you have other tips or recipes you’d like to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments.If you have a passion for culinary arts, consider sharing your love with the youth in your community. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent today, and see how you can help him/her make a difference in the lives of young people.376