Remember those hectic pre-pandemic days of eating on-the-go in between sports practices and other kid activities? One positive side of slowing down was the reemergence of eating family meals together. There’s even a word for eating together: “commensality.”
Making the choice to have family dinner can have many benefits, according to the Family Dinner Project, a nonprofit organization:
- Lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression
- Higher grade point averages and self-esteem
- Improved vocabulary for young children
- Lower rates of obesity and eating disorders
In fact, family dinner can start from the moment you start preparing your meal. By including your children in the cooking of the meals, it can boost confidence, teach them about different spices, foods, and kitchen utensils, become invested in eating the meals and help tune fine motor skills. Simply find an age-appropriate task for them to help you with during your meal preparation process.
So now that the food is prepared, how can simply eating together make such an impact? Think about what adults talk about at dinner. It’s usually what happened during their day. Those stories help children understand the world and build resilience by seeing how parents handle the challenges they face.
Would you believe these casual conversations can also boost kids’ vocabularies? That’s because adults generally use bigger words and more sophisticated language when they’re talking versus when they’re reading a children’s book. Kids learn how to “decode” words from the context of a story being told and that’s a good tool for building literacy skills.
Family dinner is also good for adults. When parents eat with children, they are more likely to model good behavior and eat more healthily. Talking naturally slows the pace of eating down and you’re more likely to notice when you’re full.
Dinner with a side of togetherness is good for everyone. According to the Family Dinner Project, it can lead to higher levels of family functioning, greater self-esteem and lower levels of depressive symptoms and stress.
For your next family dinner, get everyone involved in the planning and preparation. Then sit down and enjoy.
All recipes from the Family Dinner Project
“Yoga Night” Skillet Eggs and Vegetables
Recipe from Family Dinner Project Executive Director, Dr. Anne Fishel
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cups of raw vegetables, cut into chunks. Use what you have on hand: peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, asparagus, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower….
- 8 eggs
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Saute the onion in olive oil until translucent.
Add the other vegetables and cook until they soften. Season with salt and pepper.
Crack the eggs one at a time on top of the vegetable mixture, arranging so each has a
little room around it.
Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. Put the whole saucepan in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes (less if you like your yolks runny, and more if you want them totally firm).
Serve immediately, with crusty bread.
10 Minute Beef and Broccolini Bowls
These 10 minute beef and broccolini bowls from The Creative Bite help put a complete meal on the table on super-busy nights. Add a few minutes for thinly sliced chicken instead of beef, or swap in beans or tofu for a veggie option.
- 1 lb. thinly sliced “stir fry” beef
- 2 small bunches broccolini
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 3 Tbsp. garlic chili sauce
- 1 fresh lemon
- 8.8 oz bag brown Ready Rice (2 cups)
Note: You can substitute pre-cooked regular brown rice for the Ready Rice in this recipe, or any other cooked rice you like.
- Stir garlic chili sauce with 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and toss half of the mixture with the beef. Saute in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until the meat is no longer pink. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Toss the remaining sauce with the broccolini and add to the hot pan along with the sliced red onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, microwave the brown rice. Serve everything arranged in a bowl and garnish with lemon wedges.
Easy Turkey Skillet Dinner
This recipe is originally from Arizona WIC and appears on Eat Well, Be Well.
- Non-stick cooking spray
- ¾ pound lean ground turkey
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, and garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced
- Wash hands with warm water and soap. Wash fresh vegetables before preparing.
- Spray nonstick cooking spray in a large skillet.
- Brown turkey and onion over medium heat until turkey is cooked through and onion is soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasoning. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add zucchini and cook for 5 minutes more. Serve while hot.