Your smooth, slow summer schedule turns fast and furious as soon as the school bells ring. Getting the kids to soccer practice and dance lessons can quickly bump a nutritious family dinner down on the priority list.
The solution? At least once a week, make family dinner night a priority – no excuses.
As a family, plan your menu for the upcoming week. Let your children have input on what they want for dinner. If your children’s favorite food is pizza, plan a night the whole family gets together to make a nutritious homemade pizza.
Take your kids to the grocery store. Let them have a choice in what foods they eat. Ask questions: Do you want carrots or broccoli? Give them the power on what they want to eat. Teach your kids how to use the NuVal scoring system. Make a game out of picking the most nutritious scores. Pick a lower scoring item in a category and see if your kids can pick out a higher score than you. Teach your kids the higher the score of the product the more nutritious it is for them.
Prepare the family meal together. When the kids get involved in the meal preparation, they appreciate the meal more. Let the younger kids count ingredients out, and wash and dry the produce. The teenagers can actually start participating in the cooking of the meal. Let them sauté the onions or brown the chicken.
Make cooking educational. Have your child work on their reading by letting them read the recipe to you. Have them measure ingredients and teach them that two half cups equal one whole cup. Show your kids that cooking is a science. Let them see that oil and vinegar don’t mix on their own or what happens when vinegar and baking soda are combined.
At the dinner table, turn off your electronics. We have become so accustomed to having our cell phone sitting on the table while we eat. Turn the ringer off on your phone and set it in another room. Turn your TV off and talk to each other about your day. Ask your family what the best and worst parts of their day were or something new they learned that day. If your family is trying a new food that night, talk about the taste, texture and appearance of the food.
For busy evenings, plan ahead. If you know Tuesday nights are busy, prepare a casserole in advance, freeze it, and heat it up for Tuesday’s dinner. If you find a recipe that requires a lot of preparation, do some prep work the night before. Find creative ways to use your leftovers, like adding the leftover taco meat to your macaroni and cheese. If you see canned or frozen vegetables are on sale, stock up. Whenever a busy night comes up, those vegetables will come in handy.
Make family dinner night fun and exciting. Have themes for family night; like Fiesta night or Italian night. You can choose a night where the kids are in charge. Let the kids make the menu, help your kids prepare the food and let them serve the food. Make family dinner night a night your family looks forward to.
Dinner time is not only a time to share a meal with your family, but a time to share a part of your life.