by Dara Gurau, RD from HowtoEat.ca
The other day when sitting down to breakfast, my five-year-old daughter turned to me and asked “Mom, what’s for dinner tonight?” Already thinking about dinner and we hadn’t even finished our breakfast? She is definitely my daughter!
Answering that age-old question of ‘what’s for dinner?’ seems to be getting more and more difficult. Our lives are busy. Between school, work, after-school programs, and a myriad of other obligations and activities, it can be a struggle to provide a healthful, satisfying, and delicious dinner for your family, night after night.
Yet we know there are many benefits to sitting down for meals together as a family. One of the pillars of the new Canada’s Food Guide is to eat more meals with others. Family meal time is a great opportunity to connect about your day. Kids especially benefit from family meals as it helps them develop a happy and healthy relationship with food while also encouraging them to become more adventurous eaters.
So how do we turn all of this into a reality? How do I confidently answer my daughter’s question of ‘what’s for dinner?’
Top Five Tips for Making Family Meals a Reality
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
Getting dinner on the table every night of the week can feel overwhelming and frustrating. Setting up a meal plan at the start of the week can help to alleviate some of that stress and help make family meals a reality most nights of the week. Take a few minutes to sit down and plan out your meals for the week ahead of time and a write up grocery list. Preparing in advance sets you on the right track and makes the goal of cooking dinner each night that much more attainable.
So now that you have your plan and your groceries, it’s time to start chopping, dicing, and sautéing. Taking about an hour or so on the weekend to prep some ingredients for the meals in the week ahead will save you so much time when the dinner bell rings. Chop up all the fruit and veggies you need, cook up the grains you’ll be using, whisk up the sauces, and roast any veggies or protein you may need. Package and label all your meal components and then, come dinner time, all that’s left to do is assemble and dig in!
Set A Time
Pick a time that works for you and your family. Maybe that’s 5 or maybe it’s 6:30, but whatever it is, when the clock strikes your set time, everyone knows its time to sit down at the table. When you set up regular meal and snack times, it helps ensure your kids come to the table hungry, which makes for a much more enjoyable family meal.
Serve Meals family Style
Placing the food out on the table and letting everyone help themselves is not only easier on the chef, but it also gives everyone a sense of control over what they are eating. This is especially important for the little ones who like to exert their independence every chance they get. Now everyone can pick and choose what they want on their plate.
Keep All Electronics Away from The Table
Dinner time is the time to reconnect with your family and share stories from the day. If everyone has their phone, tablet, or laptop at the table, it’s going to take away from the family time and fill your dinner with constant interruptions. So, when the phone rings or the e-mail dings, leave it. It will still be there once dinner time is over.
Photo courtesy Howtoeat.ca
If you are just getting started with family meals, one of our family favourites is pizza. Who wouldn’t get excited for pizza night? We are always considerate of our kiddos’ tastes without catering and usually divide the pizza in two. Half is kept plain for the kids and the other we usually make up as our favourite, Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pizza. We are all eating dinner together and we are all eating the same thing, it just looks a little different. Family meal time success!