The busiest part of the day for parents seems to always be the end of the day. Rushing to pick-up kids, trying to get them home, into the house, eat something, and make it to evening activities can feel like the “real work” of the day.
So how do family meals fit into our fast moving family lives? Lets first look at why eating together as a family is so important. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and an article in the Archives of Family Medicine eating as a family at least three times a week children and teenagers consume more fruits and vegetables, make better overall food choices, and increase intake of vitamins and minerals. In addition research has found that children who eat with their family three or more times per week have healthier eating patterns (Pediatrics, May 2011).
There are many ways busy families can make family meals happen and reap these benefits.
1. Be flexible! A family meal is any meal together so if it isn’t possible to have an evening meal together try having breakfast together
2. Schedule 3 or more family meals during the week like a meeting
3. Have quick “go to” food items on hand to eat together before you run. Some examples include wraps, sandwiches, and yogurt with fruit, veggies, and hummus.
4. Prepare meals in advance, have meat pre-cooked and ready to go
5. Purchase ready to eat fruit and vegetables, rotisserie chicken, sliced cheeses
6. Utilize the good old crock pot
7. Give yourself a break occasionally! Order pizza or grab to-go food but EAT TOGETHER with no phones, iPads, or TV on.
8. Don’t beat yourself up if there is a crazy week where none of this happens, it’s what you do on average that is most important! Try again next week!
To get you started here are three fast dinners; one on-the-go meal, one pre-made, one “express meal”, and a “back-up” meal.
Meal One: Turkey and provolone cheese wraps with hummus spread inside, avocado, and cucumber slices. Bring along red grapes for fruit.
Meal Two: Bean and Cheese Enchiladas (recipe below) prepped in a 9x9 casserole dish in the frig ready to pop in the oven right when you get home, ready in 30 min serve with a mixed greens salad.
Meal Three: Prepare spaghetti noodles, microwave a premade marinara sauce, and heat some pre-cooked frozen turkey meatballs from the freezer (available in the freezer department of most grocery stores) and you have spaghetti.
Back-up Meal: Keep pre-made par baked pizza crust in the freezer, many bakeries sell freshly made par baked pizza crusts that can be frozen, top with desired ingredients like pasta sauce, cheese, veggies, and meats and bake per crust instructions.
Remember if all else fails make peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread and eat together!
Bean and Cheese Enchiladas Recipe
1 Can Vegetarian Refried Beans
1 ½ Cups Shredded Cheese
6 8 in Tortillas can use Whole Wheat Tortillas
1 Package or Can of Mild Enchilada Sauce
1. Spray 9x9 dish with canola cooking spray
2. Spread each tortilla with 2 Tb refried beans and top with shredded cheese, roll tortilla up and place in pan
3. Once all rolled-up enchiladas are in the pan pour 8-10oz of the mild enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and top with remaining cheese
4. Cover pan with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30min