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Rosina Italian Meatball Pesto Sliders

Family mealtime, the simple act of gathering the family around the table to eat together regularly, has long-reaching benefits to the health and wellness of children and adolescents from fighting obesity and substance abuse to making families stronger. But, juggling jobs, kids and the demands of busy lives can sometimes come at the expense of family mealtime.

September, National Family Meals Month™, is the perfect time to invite your kids into the kitchen to cook along with you. In no time, you’ll be on your way to eating at least one more home meal each week together with your family!

Meal Planning is Key

Did you know that 63 percent of Americans decide what to eat less than one hour before eating? Planning for meals is a key strategy to improve the nutrition quality and frequency of family meals. Setting a routine time for weekly meal planning helps. Choose a relaxing time in your schedule when you can carve out about 30 minutes of quiet time. I like to plan on Saturday mornings when my kids are still asleep. Divide a sheet of paper in half and designate one side for your grocery list and one side for main meals.

Recipe Selection

Take time to look through your recipe box and cookbooks and browse online through the newly updated “recipes” section of easyhomemeals.com where you can search by meal type, key ingredients, dietary preference, cooking method, holidays & occasions and more. Here are some great recipes to try this fall with your kids.

Mini Gyros

Bays English Muffins Mini GyrosThis recipe creates mini gyros using a folded refrigerated English muffin half as the gyro wrap. Little hands can hold the folded muffin halves while a parent scoops in the filling and secures with a toothpick. The seasoned meat filling is easy to cook ahead as is the homemade yogurt-based Tzatziki sauce, featuring the flavors of fresh garlic, cucumber and mint leaves with kosher salt, olive oil and vinegar. It’s fun to spoon Tzatziki over-top or as a dipping sauce on the side.

Italian Style Meatball Pesto Sliders

Rosina Italian Meatball Pesto SlidersThese little slider meatball sandwiches pack a ton of flavor from basil pesto, vine-ripened tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. The prep is simple. Kids can help drizzle pesto sauce, sprinkle cheese and assemble the meatball sandwiches in rows lining a 9×13 pan. Tent with foil and bake for just 15-20 minutes, plus an extra five minutes for browning.

Blueberry Muffin Baked Oatmeal

Daddios Blueberry Muffin Baked OatmealThis baked oatmeal tastes like a blueberry muffin. By using frozen blueberries, they’re always in season and have a much longer shelf life than fresh. The baked oatmeal can be made using whole milk or your preferred milk alternative. This is a great breakfast to get the kids involved, whether it’s cracking the eggs, measuring out the dry ingredients, or whisking it all together. Once cooled completely, store the baked oatmeal in the fridge for up to a week. It can also be frozen, just individually wrap slices in plastic wrap and then store in a freezer bag.

Sheet Pan Veggie Roast

RD Sheet Pan Veggie RoastThis better-for-you side dish is the perfect way to get kids to eat their veggies. They can help dump several bags of frozen roasting vegetables into a bowl and toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and onion powder. Spread evenly on a pre-heated baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees 45 minutes until browned as desired. Dust with parmesan and lemon zest and broil for a few minutes more.

Eating Smart Starts in Your Cart

Keeping healthful frozen and refrigerated foods on hand can make it easier to get better-for-you meals on the table. Plan your grocery shopping list based on recipes and meal planning. Keep staple refrigerated and frozen meal ingredients on hand so you never run out of supplies to cook one of your favorite meals at home. For example, a frozen pizza pairs nicely with fresh bagged salad. Frozen tortellini pairs well with frozen broccoli florets, jarred tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese shreds. Stuff whole-grain tortilla wraps with seasoned black beans, frozen riced vegetables, cheddar cheese shreds and a drizzle of salsa.

Invite Kids into the Kitchen

Sure, your kitchen will stay neater if you do all the meal prep yourself. But, don’t miss out on a crucial opportunity to teach kids much-needed life skills. Encouraging kids to help prepare meals can help reduce picky eating and build a “yes, I can” attitude when it comes to cooking.

Kids Can Help at Any Age

Read the entire recipe together before starting to cook to make sure you have enough time, food ingredients and supplies. Choose recipes with some simple steps that are easy for kids to help with at any age. Give age-appropriate tasks to children and ask for their input on what side dishes to serve with a planned main dish. Let hungry helpers snack on raw fruits and vegetables while their appetite is at its greatest and the main meal is not yet ready to serve.

 

Ways Kids Can Help with Family Meals

Toddlers Pre-Schoolers Grade-Schoolers
Rinse fruits & vegetables Count recipe ingredients Pour & measure ingredients
Tear leafy greens Crack an egg Wipe counters & set table
Pretend to cook along Add ingredients to bowls Help with grocery shopping
Practice food names & colors Stir or whisk ingredients Peel produce & hard-cooked eggs
Sprinkle cheese shreds Sprinkle herbs & seasonings Scrape bowls using a spatula
Taste food ingredients Help serve food Set timer & turn appliances on/off

 

Make Dinner Time—Positive Family Time


Meals should be a safe zone of positivity, not a power struggle between picky eaters and parents. Encourage your kids to try new foods during shared mealtimes without judgment and offer praise just for the act of trying something new. Discourage others from “yucking” someone else’s yummy food choice.  And, most of all make family mealtime a device-free zone where everyone gets a chance to engage in meaningful conversations to learn more about each other’s lives.

Share your family meal experiences, favorite recipes, solutions and pitfalls on your favorite social channels using #FamilyMealsMonth and tag @EasyHomeMeals.

About the Author

Karen BuchKaren Buch, RDN, LDN is a central Pennsylvania-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with over 15 years of experience working in grocery retail. As Founder of Nutrition Connections LLC, Karen uses multi-media communications to help consumers make the connection between food, nutrition and health and provides consulting services to various clients within the food industry. Connect with her on
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