When we cook meals at home, we can provide healthier meals. During this time of anxiety and uncertainty, cooking at home may be just what your family needs to calm their nerves, relax and reconnect as a family.
Most research suggests that both parents and children value sharing a meal together. It offers time to talk and listen to each other. The simple act of regular mealtimes can provide stability. Plus, it's a great time to model healthy eating habits.
These meals do not have to be fancy or labor intensive. Start by planning your meal. When you want to serve your family healthy, nutritious meals, but you are in overload, out of time and out of ideas. There is a solution to all this madness. These top 10 tips will help you enjoy preparing and dining at home.
Make family meals a priority and agree upon a schedule. With us experiencing “social distancing” right now this is an easier option. Count me in!
Try to have regular family meals two to three times a week. We don’t live in a “Leave it to Beaver” society anymore, but it sure would be nice to gather the family around the dinner table more than once a month.
If dinnertime doesn't work, have family breakfasts or snacks. Anytime together as a family, strengthens our bond, and eases nerves.
Keep meals simple. You don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Use your small appliances such as slow cookers, instant pressure canners or air fryers to save time in the evening.
Double recipes and freeze food for a second meal. Or quadruple the recipe and prepare meals for the week. This way everyone has a healthy hot meal to enjoy even if you can’t eat as a family.
Set aside 30 minutes on the weekend for meal planning. To start, grab a pencil and paper and list your favorite meals. It may help to talk to your family or thumb through a favorite cookbook. Some of the meals will be healthier than others, but for now, just write them all down.
Make family meals fun and include children in food preparation. Preschoolers are hard at work on their fine motor skills, so this is a good time to give them slightly more detailed work, although they will still need lots of help and supervision! Allow them to cut soft foods with a plastic knife, crack an egg, measure and level dry ingredients with a straight edge, set the table, fill the dishwasher soap compartment, and press the “Start” button.
Discuss neutral or positive topics at the table. Create a list of conversation starters and let someone pick what it will be for that meal.
Eliminate distractions such as TV and cell phones or other electronic devises. We can live without them for 30 minutes. This was a hard rule when my kids were teenagers. No electronic devises at the table.
Eat slowly and enjoy your time as a family. It is rumored that it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know it is full.
For more information, contact the Newton County Extension Office, 870-446-2240. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity, equal access, and affirmative action institution.
Here is a great fast meal that is made in the slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours or in the oven at 350 for 30-40 minutes. I am giving directions for the slow cooker since it is one of my favorite time savers. Serve over whole wheat noodles, with parmesan roasted broccoli and a nice salad. Chances are your family will love this and it will become one of your go to meals.
Holy Moly Its Good Chicken
4 chicken breasts, butterflied into 8 sections
1 packet dry Zesty Italian dressing
1 (8 oz.) package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1-2 cans low-sodium cream of chicken soup
Spray liner of slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray or use slow cooker liner. Place the chicken in slow cooker and sprinkle each side with Italian dressing. Combine cream cheese and cream of chicken soup in a small bowl and microwave 1 minute until cream cheese is melted, stir to combine well, pour over chicken. Cook on low in the slow cooker for at 4-6 hours. Once cooked serve over pasta. If you feel like the sauce is too thick, thin down with a little milk.