Taste of Home is sponsoring a company weight loss program based on our new cookbook, The Comfort Food Diet. I asked one of the participants, Associate Web Editor Heather Gergen, to share with us her journey to a healthier lifestyle.
Getting a family together for a meal these days can be downright difficult. Between after school activities, late nights at the office and get-togethers with friends, families have multitasked themselves right out of one of the easiest and most sacred moments of family time–dinner at the family table.
I see a lot of mothers who work outside the home shuttling their kids from one activity to the next and wonder how they do it. What do they eat for dinner? And when do they have time to eat it? Are they feeding their kids PB&J sandwiches in the car with a banana chaser? Or are they relying on fast food restaurants to feed their families?
I figure stay-at-home moms have a little more time during the day to figure out their dinner game plan. Some of my stay-at-home friends are able to make dinner in advance and have it waiting for a quick reheat when the family finally gets home.
As my children get older and each of them is scheduled for activities, I am finding that it is getting harder to make time for our family dinner. Yet, I am still finding ways to make it work most nights, but it requires a lot of planning. I have to carefully plan time for prepping and cooking.
I rely on quick dinner recipes prepared with pre-made ingredients (rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked ground beef, etc.), like casserole and slow cooker recipes. It is important to me that our family eats a home-cooked meal most weeknights.
I get the kids involved in making meals whenever I can. It’s a terrific way to connect. My 6 year-old son loves to slice strawberries and mushrooms, snap beans, crack eggs and mix ingredients. My 8 year-old daughter is learning how to measure ingredients and read recipes. She’s even cooked a few slow-cooker dishes by herself! And both of them know that setting the table is one of their responsibilities.
By doing so, they are learning that these are tasks that are just part of keeping the family running smoothly. They also learn how to cook, which is a skill that will feed them for a lifetime. Not to mention, it helps them hone their math skills and practice following written instructions.
I really treasure the time we have together eating the meals. The kids open up about what they did during the day and reveal details that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. Our dinnertime conversation has become somewhat of a ritual.
What did you do today? We all go around the table and say what we did during the day. The kids know that they need to tell us what they did throughout the day at school. We are interested in who they played with and what they did.
What did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday? If we don’t hear about something new that our kids learned that day, we ask them what they learned at school. If they’re not learning anything, they’re not being challenged. This one we learned from our next-door neighbors. They’re grandparents now and have successfully raised 10 kids.
Hi-Low Game. This is a new one that we started over the weekend that I heard about on the radio during an interview with The Family Dinner author Laurie David. Basically, we all go around the table and share the high point and low point from our day. My daughter calls it the “hi-lo game” and is requesting it now. It’s a good way to get your kids to talk about their emotions.
We’ve worked hard to get our kids to the point where they tell us about their day. Sure, at the beginning we received one-word answers to the “What did you do today?” question, but we took the time to press them for a little more. They knew they wouldn’t be leaving the table with one-word answers.
There is a recent movement to make Monday family night. The Kids Cook Monday initiative encourages families to set aside the first night of every week for cooking and eating together as a family. I hope that most people with families can make more than one night family night, but I suppose you have to start somewhere. The site offers many tips and suggestions for getting kids involved with cooking.
Another resource that you might enjoy is the Taste of Home Kids Coloring Book. We have coloring book pages with whimsical illustrations and easy recipes to print and share with the children in your life.
How do you promote family dinners in your household?
What I made this week:
This week I tried the Southwestern Macaroni Salad from the Comfort Food Diet cookbook. A few weeks ago, our food director, Diane Werner, suggested it to our diet club as a healthy, filling side dish. A ¾ cup serving of the recipe as written equals just 163 calories. I made it with quinoa elbow macaroni to make it gluten-free and lower the calories even more. This is the kind of salad that tastes even better the next day as you allow time for the flavors to blend together. I also added a chicken breast to the salad later in the week for a tasty lunch.