Regular sit-down dinners have been lost to demanding schedules and never-ending activities. According to a recent survey, only 30 percent of American families report eating at least three meals together in a week, while 10 percent reported eating no meals together.
Skipping family meals may seem like an easy solution, but when it comes to the overall health and happiness of your household, dining together should be a high priority. Recent studies link regular family meals (three-to-five meals per week) with lower rates of risky behaviors, higher academic performance and higher self-esteem in children and young adults.
It is possible to prepare a nutritious meal your family can enjoy together. Follow these time-saving tips and spend more time around the table.
Want to save time and money? According to data from the Hartman Group, more than half of the dinners in America (53 percent) are planned within an hour of eating. Avoid the last-minute stress by making a weekly dinner menu. Use a grocery list, research shows when a list is used to shop for groceries, 40 percent less is spent on impulse purchases.
Use USDA’s Choose MyPlate as a guide to learn what foods groups make a healthy meal. One half of a medium sized plate should be filled with vegetables and colorful fruit, with a quarter for lean meat or other proteins and a final quarter for whole grains like brown rice or pasta. Dairy foods are represented off to the side of the plate and can be yogurt, cheese or milk. Experts agree milk with meals is an easy way to ensure your family is getting the nutrition they need. Milk provides three of the four critical nutrients Americans may not have in their meals: calcium, potassium and vitamin D.
Take advantage of any extra time on weekends to prep foods for future dinners in advance. Cook vegetables, chop fruits, brown meat, boil eggs, shred cheese and mix-up dressings or marinades and store in the fridge.
Eating together as a family doesn’t mean a sit-down dinner every night. Breakfast is an excellent opportunity to share a meal. Overnight oats are perfect for busy mornings and can be prepared the night before. Pairing oats with milk provides your family nine nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and protein to power through the busy mornings.
Pack Pantry and Fridge Essentials
Save time and money by using what you have on hand in your pantry or fridge. Stock your pantry and fridge with your family’s favorite meal ingredients, which can be tossed together for an easy one-pot meal like whole wheat pasta, frozen vegetables and shredded cheese.
Cheese is a great addition to any meal and can be incorporated into most diets. For vegetarians, cheese is an important source of high-quality protein. People with lactose intolerance can enjoy natural cheeses low in lactose, such as Cheddar and Swiss.
Eating meals as a family takes more effort in today’s hectic world. This October, make time to eat together, eat better with real dairy. Visit thedairyalliance.com or follow @theDairyRD for delicious one dish recipes and nutrition tips.