Meals & Menus: A family benefits if dinnertime is mandatory
(NC) - The back-to-school challenges of September often include concern about family nutrition. This worry could be solved however - and with untold benefits - if scheduling a family dinnertime, every day, was also top priority.
Numerous studies conclude that families who report eating together "every day" have better overall nutrition - and consume more calcium, fibre, iron, plus more B and C vitamins - compared to families who said they "never" or "only sometimes" eat meals together. In addition to better nutrition and quality time, here are a few other reasons to insist that everyone shows up for dinner:
Routines Ground Kids: Chaotic lifestyles lead to disorganized and distracted kids. Studies find that children who are expected to stick to routines, get better sleep, better meals, better grades and have a more positive attitude about their future.
Bond and Solve Problems: Sitting down together at the dinner table in a quiet setting is the perfect opportunity to learn what is important and challenging to each other.
Talking Develops Language Skills: With adults at the table, topics and conversation can be more structured and in depth and that presents an extremely valuable opportunity for children to learn.
"Most importantly, having a regularly scheduled dinnertime will mean that only one menu must be prepared for the entire family," says Dana McCauley, author of Dana's Top Ten Table (Harper Collins 2007) and this year's spokesperson for Minute Rice. "All too often modern moms find themselves cooking individual meals for each family member. You can turn into a short order cook if you try to cater to everyone's schedule, likes and dislikes. Choose a menu of basic foods that will appeal to the entire family; then, gradually introduce new items so that you can encourage your family to enjoy the full spectrum of nutritious foods alongside their favourites." Here are some of Dana's quick tips on meals and menus:
Explore the refrigerated sections of the supermarket for pre-cooked food ideas. For example, serve barbecued chicken with pre-washed and baby cut carrots and/or salad. Make instant rice, which, if you check the Nutrition Facts label on Minute Rice has zero fat, zero cholesterol, and zero sodium. This universally liked staple is also a source of iron, plus B vitamins like thiamine and niacin.
Make and freeze large quantities of stews, casseroles, and sauces ahead of time. Then at each meal, just add kid-favourite foods like beans, corn, wholegrain pasta and/or rice.
In addition to lean protein and grain carbohydrates on every plate, do look for ways to add extra fruit and vegetables to the meal. For example, add fresh berries, nuts, or chopped fruit to a salad; add applesauce or cranberry sauce with poultry; add extra vegetables, fresh or frozen, to soups and stews; add fruit juice to sauces and soups; add grilled pineapple, lemon or orange sauce to fish.
Additional recipe ideas are online at minuterice.ca.
1 tbsp vegetable oil 15 mL
1 each onion and green pepper, 1 chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms 500 mL
2 cloves garlic, minced 2
1 tbsp each chili powder and 15 mL dried oregano leaves
1 tsp ground cumin 5 mL
1 tsp each salt and pepper 5 mL
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes, with juices 1
3 cups sodium-reduced tomato juice 750 mL
16 prepared frozen meatballs 16
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) kidney beans, drained and rinsed 1
2 cups uncooked Minute Rice Instant White Rice 500 mL
1/2 cup corn kernels 125 mL
Shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Green onion, sliced (optional)
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper, mushrooms, garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the canned tomatoes and tomato juice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the meatballs and kidney beans to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat.
Stir in the Minute Rice and corn. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes or until rice is tender. Garnish with Cheddar cheese, sour cream and green onion (if using).
Serving Size: Makes 6 Servings
Nutritional Information: Per Serving: 441 calories, 8 g fat, 16 g protein, 77 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 875 mg sodium. An excellent source of vitamin C and iron.