Research shows that having regular mealtime can improve the health of children, help with their social and emotional development, and help them do better in school. In the midst of a hurried world, the investment in family mealtime is well worth the time and effort.
Healthy habits, including controlling portion size, eating only one portion, and choosing and cooking healthy options help adults and children control weight and it increases consumption of nutrients necessary for good health. Children who eat at regular meal times consume more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods and sodas.
One way to make cooking and eating at home easier is to assign tasks. Involve your whole family by getting them to participate. Assigned tasks (helping to plan menus and shop, setting the table, and clearing up after the meal) shares the workload and reinforces the idea that these daily tasks are enjoyable.
Planning is another helpful tool that makes cooking and eating at home easier. Follow a grocery list and keep staples on hand to make cooking easier. Use the weekends to prepare entrees, such as lasagna, stew or other casseroles that can be stored or frozen for use during the week. Prep vegetables and meat in advance and review ingredients and recipes to be sure you understand the cooking procedure. These basic techniques will help you get your family’s dinner on the table in short order.
One trend, seen in many big-city restaurants that families can follow is “Meatless Mondays.” Started by the non-profit initiative The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, Meatless Mondays encourages avoiding meat one day a week to increase nutrition, reduce your carbon footprint and help limit climate change. For more on this phenomenon, visit http://www.meatlessmonday.com/.
Make Meatless Monday an adventure for the family by choosing unusual ingredients and cooking techniques so they are less likely to miss meat. Focus on other cuisines, such as Thai, Indian, Italian or Mexican, that rely less on meat. For example, hearty meatless chili, homemade vegetarian pizza, a Thai noodle bowl, or mattar panner, an Indian dish of peas and cheese, make unusual and delicious meatless entrees.
The extension website provides valuable information about cooking and eating more meals at home at http://www.extension.org/pages/19863/prepare-and-eat-more-meals-at-home. Try this recipe for “Meatless Chili:”
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, fresh or canned, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup cooked kidney beans
1 cup cooked pinto beans
1 28-oz can tomatoes, chopped; reserve juice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
In a large soup kettle warm the oil over low heat. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, red and green peppers and jalapenos. Cover the kettle and cook the vegetables until they are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, add the chili powder and cumin, and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and the tomatoes and their juice. Increase the heat to medium and bring the chili to a simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and let the chili cook for 20 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper and cilantro and serve. Serves 4.
Per serving: 260 calories, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams total fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 908 milligrams sodium, 13 grams fiber.
For more informative educational information, contact the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service located at 519 South Main Street in Harlan or call 606-573-4464.
Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.