Family meals are an increasingly important aspect of our lives. It's a chance to step away from the hustle and bustle of work and school for some quality time with each other.
Studies show that there are some tangible benefits to healthy family meals: families who cook together tend to make healthier food decisions, and there are studies indicating that spending meals with family may help kids who are struggling with behavioral disorders.
In these busy times, making healthy family meals might sound like a daunting prospect. But with a little planning – and your kids’ input and assistance – it can be a fun and easy part of your day. Here are some family meal ideas that can help.
Stick To One Pot
Family meals don’t have to be multi-course affairs. One-pot meals like soups, stews and braises can make preparation easy - and also make cleaning up a snap.
Kids can help with the decision making - chicken noodle soup, chili, or clam chowder might be suggestions.
They can also serve as sous chefs. Have them chop vegetables, measure out ingredients, or sauté garlic and onions as needed. You can put them in charge of making a side salad while the meal is cooking.
Of course, there’s the classic dinner theme night: Taco Tuesday. Tacos are a great family meal - you can mix things up by substituting the usual ground beef with ground turkey, fish or our meatless taco meat recipe.
And you can add some variety by introducing your family to the wide range of salsas out there, from tangy green salsa (salsa verde) to fresh pico de gallo. Get more ideas with our guide to Taco Tuesday the Healthy Way.
There’s also Meatless Monday - a good opportunity to teach your kids that vegetarian meals can be healthy, delicious and filling.
Beyond that, theme nights don’t have to be alliterative plays on the day of the week. Challenge your kids to come up with meals based on a favorite movie, and then watch the movie after dinner. Create meals based on holidays or historical events. Or have the kids pick a country and together plan a meal that’s typical of that country’s cuisine.
Breakfast For Dinner (And Lunch For Dinner!)
Breakfast for dinner can be a healthy choice. Eggs can play a big part; make a skillet egg scramble with chicken sausage, shredded cheese and diced bell peppers, or if you’re up for it, use the same ingredients and make a frittata.
For a special treat, make pancakes, waffles or French toast topped with fresh berries. Slices of seasonal melon make a great “appetizer.”
Sandwiches also make for a great dinner. Here you can set up a sandwich bar: put out different varieties of options, and offer veggie toppings like romaine lettuce, spinach, roasted red peppers and sliced tomatoes. For an extra treat, use good bread from your local baker (they’ll usually slice it for you).