October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month, a time to get back on track with eating meals together.
It’s a known fact that when this happens, meals are often more nutritious, kids are less likely to snack on unhealthy food, and more fruits, veggies and whole grains are consumed.
Beyond health and nutrition, family meals provide a valuable opportunity for kids and parents to reconnect. Additional benefits include…better communication, improved performance in school, stronger family bond, shared learning, and fewer behavioral problems. So, when is the last time you sat down and ate a meal with your family? If you can’t remember when, chances are you’re facing challenges that many families encounter.
Challenge: You really don’t have the time or skills to cook meals.
Solution: Think simple. A shared family meal doesn’t have to be a roast turkey feast. A family meal can be take-out food, like pizza, plus a side of carrot sticks, apples and milk. Time together and conversation is bonus.
Challenge: Meal planning is difficult because family members don’t like the same foods.
Solution: Finding a menu that includes something for everyone can be difficult; it can be tempting to become a short-order cook. Some families set aside one meal a month as buffet night and allow each person to make a desired item. Others let family members take turns preparing their favorite meals. Over time, adults and kids will be hungry enough to eat. Continue offering a variety of healthy food choices.
Challenge: Family schedules are so busy there’s no time to eat together.
Solution: Kids do better when they have a routine to their lives; and that includes mealtime. Explore ways individual schedules can be adjusted to allow mealtime together. Maybe that might mean having breakfast together in the morning as opposed to the evening meal.
Mealtime should enjoyable. Remember to keep your interactions positive at the table. Ask your kids about their days and tell them about yours. If you cannot remember the last time you sat down for a family meal, take the time this October to start a family tradition of eating together and eating better.
October is also Apple Month. Autumn is the prime time to try a variety of apples. From sweet to tart, they are a powerhouse of nutrition in a tasty portable “package.” A medium apple is about 80 calories and has five grams of fiber and if you eat it with the skin on, fiber increases as does the vitamin C. Serve this sweet treat recipe at your next family meal.
4 apples, cored
8 teaspoons dried fruit, chopped, such as cranberries, raisins or dates
8 teaspoons toasted nuts, chopped, such as pecans, walnuts or almonds
2 teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
½ cup plain yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine fruit, nuts, honey and cinnamon; spoon into apples.
3. Place the apples in a small baking dish and pour apple cider around them.
4. Cover with foil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes
5. Serve with topped yogurt.
Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 165; Total Fat: 4 g; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Sodium: 2mg; Protein: 12.7g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Carbohydrates: 35g. Source: K-State Research & Extension
(Source: University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach)