Sitting down together for a meal whenever you can is a great way to connect with your family. Keeping it relaxed is key to making sure you are getting the most out of this time together, including talking, laughing, and choosing healthy foods.
Here are some tips from families for making meals more relaxed in your home.
- Remove distractions. Turn off the television and put away phones and tablets, so that your attention is on each other.
- Talk to each other. Focus conversation on what family members did during the day, for example, what made you laugh or what you did for fun. Other conversation starters include:
~ Give each family member the spotlight to share their highlight, lowlight, and “funnylight” from the day or week.
~ If our family lived in a zoo, what animals would we be and why?
~ If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
~ If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one food to eat, what would it be and why?
- Pass on traditions. Tell children about the “good old days,” such as foods Grandma made that you loved to eat.
- Let kids make choices. Set a healthy table and let everyone, including the kids, make choices about what they want and how much to eat.
- Let everyone help. Kids learn by doing. The little one might get the napkins and older kids help with fixing foods and clean-up.
- Make-your-own dishes like tacos, mini pizzas, and yogurt parfaits get everyone involved in meal time.
- On nice days, opt for a change of scenery. For example, go to a nearby park for a dinner picnic.
- Reserve a special plate to rotate between family members, for example on birthdays, when someone gets a good grade, or any other occasion you’d like to recognize.
Here are a couple tasty recipes to try.
Crunchy Chicken Fingers
Yield: 4 servings
1/2 teaspoon reduced-sodium crab seasoning (or substitute 1/4 teaspoon paprika and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder for a sodium-free alternative)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour
12 ounces boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into 12 strips
2 tablespoons fat-free (skim) milk
1 egg white (or substitute 2 tablespoons egg white substitute)
3 cups cornflake cereal, crushed
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Mix crab seasoning, pepper, and flour in a bowl.
- Add chicken strips, and toss well to coat evenly.
- Combine milk and egg white in a separate bowl, and mix well. Pour over seasoned chicken, and toss well.
- Place crushed cornflakes in a separate bowl. Dip each chicken strip into the cornflakes, and coat well. Place strips on a nonstick baking sheet. (Discard any leftover cornflake mixture.)
- Bake chicken strips for 10–12 minutes (to a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF).
Serve three chicken strips with your favorite dipping sauce.
Apple Cinnamon Bars
Yield: 24 servings
4 apples (medium)
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats (uncooked)
1/2 cup shortening
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Put the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, brown sugar, and oats in the mixing bowl. Stir together.
- Add the shortening to the bowl. Use the 2 table knives to mix the ingredients and cut them into crumbs.
- Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the baking dish with a little bit of shortening.
- Spread half of the crumb mixture in the greased baking dish.
- Remove the core from the apples and slice them. Put the apple slices into the baking dish.
- Top the apples with the rest of the crumb mixture.
- Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
- Cool and cut into squares.
You can use applesauce (16 ounces) or canned apples in place of fresh apples.
You can use either peeled or unpeeled apples.
May use 1/2 cup of margarine or vegetable oil spread in place of shortening.
May use pumpkin pie spice in place of cinnamon.