September is Family Meals Month, and I’m all in. What’s better than family and food? Now, the only question is how to make it happen. Finding balance can be challenging with our hectic routines, including making time for meal planning and prep.
As part of the Nestlé Balance Your Plate program, why not lighten your load and enjoy nutritious frozen meals within an overall healthy dietary pattern by rounding them out with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy? With school back in session and the transition back to busier weekday schedules, applying this concept is the perfect way to make space for both quality meals and quality family time. Here are a few ways to celebrate Family Meals Month in your home this September — and beyond.
Sunday (Family) Funday
We all know Sundays can be the perfect day for relaxing on the couch. Start there — and then enjoy some prime family time in the kitchen preparing a balanced meal together.
This Creamy Bacon and Broccoli Salad paired with Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese is one your kids are sure to love. And, it’s a crafty way to get them to enjoy eating their broccoli — a phrase I never thought I’d hear myself say!
Kids just love to be a part of the process. Even though messy at times, there are proven benefits. According to this study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, “developing adequate cooking skills by emerging adulthood may have long-term benefits for nutrition over a decade later.”
Makeover Your Leftovers
When people hear the term “leftovers,” they sometimes think a boring meal is on the horizon. Same old, same old. This doesn’t have to be the case.
You can use the freezer as a tool to maximize your time. For example, soup is perfect, because you can make large batches, then freeze in individual (or family-sized) portions for future use. For a comforting weeknight meal that lasts for more than one night, try a DiGiorno Thin & Crispy Tomato Mozzarella with Pesto pizza alongside this Roasted Carrot Soup. If you double the soup recipe, you can freeze individual servings in freezer bags that any family member can heat up quickly on another night when time is tight.
These Italian Stir-Fry veggies are another perfect side dish that can liven up more than one meal. To cut down mealtime prep, take advantage of store-bought pre-cut veggies.
Prepare them alongside Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese for a wholesome and tasty weeknight meal, then mix any leftover veggies into scrambled eggs or omelets over the weekend.
Forks Up, Phones Down
To no one’s surprise, technology adds to the challenge of carving out true family time. We’re all guilty of looking at our phones too often (myself included), and the dinner table is no exception. Eliminate screens at mealtime with a “no phone or tablet” rule at the table. To make this easier (and reduce the temptation to scroll), create a box or basket where everyone can place their device before the meal begins.
Designate someone to oversee the box each night to help everyone feel accountable to the practice of a technology free meal time. Sit back and let the conversation flow.
Make Mealtime Interactive
Incorporating a simple activity into family meal time gives everyone something to look forward to, making mealtime = quality family time. For example, you could establish a few go-to questions for mealtime conversation. The rule is, everyone must answer before they get up from the table. Sample questions could be:
- What was your favorite part of the meal tonight?
- Did anyone read anything interesting online or in the newspaper today?
- What was your favorite part of your day?
- What’s one activity you’d like to do this weekend?
However you and your family manage the weekly schedule, simple shifts can help streamline cooking and get a healthy meal on the table more quickly. Then, we can focus on what really counts: spending quality time together. Keep checking back with us for more tips on family meal planning from Nestlé or take a look at our Balance Your Plate recipes.
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