Posts Tagged ‘benefit of family meals’

Do you like to watch “Chopped”, “MasterChef”, “Top Chef”, or “The Great British Baking Show”? Most of us enjoy seeing the creative creations they come up with over the course of 30 – 60 minutes, that look oh so tasty too. Have you thought about trying your own cooking challenge at home?? Having your own cooking challenge can provide a few benefits:

  • Gives you/your family something to do when so many things are closed
  • Cleans out the cupboard/freezer/refrigerator
  • Saves money, because you are not purchasing new food – you are using things you already have
  • Prevents waste, encouraging you to use things before they are past the best-buy date.

Did you know there is research supporting the benefit of family meals too? Numerous studies support that families who eat or cook together: have healthier diets, eat on a budget, spend time talking about their days, have lower rates of obesity and eating disorders, and the children have lower rates of substance use and depression. Children also benefit from learning basic meal preparations skills: washing vegetables or fruits, setting the table, measuring or mixing ingredients, or reading the recipe. Sounds like a lot of reasons to eat and prepare meals together.

challenge pork roast

So why not try your own cooking challenge? You can come up with your own rules – do they get to purchase 1 new ingredient, or must they use all foods on hand? Do you draw names, and each person prepares a different part of the meal – main dish, vegetable, fruit, or dessert? Or do you work in teams? Or does one person or group prepare the meal this week and then in a week or two the next challenger cooks and you write down scores? Is there a secret ingredient that must be in every dish? My own family decided to try the cooking challenge – our daughter took the first week and used all foods on hand to come up with a couple meals from a small pork roast. First, we had pork and rice bowls with a side of fresh fruit, and the left-over pork (mixed with a can of black beans) made nachos 2 days later. I am going to have a hard time beating that! I cannot wait to hear the Cupboard Clean-Out creations you come up with.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

Photo credit: Rachel Barlage

Read Full Post »

Do you love foods that are traditionally served for breakfast like pancakes, waffles, or omelets? Studies of America’s favorite foods often include: bagels, waffles, bacon, pancakes, and sausage gravy with biscuits towards the top of survey results. Many of these foods we may not actually eat that often though, because we think they are only for breakfast – and we only have time to fix a big breakfast on the weekend. Or maybe, the version of these foods we are used to, is higher in fat and calories than we know we should have? If you are in one of these groups, why not think about a made-over breakfast for dinner?

Breakfast for dinner may be an easy way to celebrate both National Fruit and Vegetable Month and National Family Meals Month as we wrap up September. The importance of those family meals can’t be overlooked. A few of those benefits include: better academics for youth, higher self-esteem, lower risk of depression, and lower risk of substance abuse. Family eating pancakes and fruit

Here is the start of a list of breakfast foods that would make great family dinners:

  • Baked or slow cooker oatmeal with berries, apples, nuts, dried fruit, and cinnamon.
  • English muffin or wrap sandwich – whole grain muffin or tortilla with either nut spread with fruit, sliced veggies and cheese, or light cheese and over-easy egg.
  • French toast with sliced fruit – make sure you use a whole grain bread.
  • Egg and veggie burritos – use a whole grain tortilla, add scrambled eggs, light cheese, a few black beans, and chopped veggies (tomatoes, onion, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, or eggplant).
  • Omelet – use those chopped veggies, light cheese, herbs, and left over ham/turkey/chicken.
  • Frittata – A frittata has the ingredients mixed in, rather than folded in the center like an omelet. They can be baked in a pie pan or casserole dish, cooked in a skillet on top of the stove, or made in an electric skillet. The combinations are limitless. Eggs can be combined with any type of chopped vegetable, cheese, herbs, or even a little leftover meat. To make individual frittatas, pour into well-greased muffin tins with each person adding their own choice of vegetables or favorite cheese or herb. Get creative with these – think pizza made with eggs; Italian herbs; mozzarella cheese; diced tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or onions; and a couple mini pepperoni. Or Southwest with eggs; shredded chicken; diced tomatoes, peppers, and green chilies; hot pepper cheese; and spices like cumin and chili powder. The bonus with mini muffin frittatas is you can bake them ahead and reheat for a quick breakfast or pack in a lunch.They can also be frozen and used when you need a quick dinner.        Frittata
  • Whole grain pancakes with fresh fruit or even shredded zucchini. Cooking Matters has a great Orange Oatmeal Pancake that includes orange juice, whole wheat flour, and oats – you don’t even need syrup.
  • Avocado whole grain toast – with pears, lean chicken, and greens can be quick favorite too.

By making a few minor changes to our traditional breakfast favorites like using the whole grain version, or a low fat milk or cheese, you can cut unnecessary calories and increase fiber, vitamins and minerals. Our goal is to try and choose foods from all five food groups throughout the day. Dinner is a great time to help move you in the right direction and choose a variety of foods from MyPlate (low-fat dairy or dairy substitute, fruit, vegetable, low fat meat or protein, and whole grains.)

We can’t wait to hear your favorite breakfast for dinner food. Please share your ideas in the comments section. Recipes are linked to several of the foods by following the hyperlink on the name.

Written by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County.


Produce for Better Health Foundation, https://fruitsandveggies.org/.

What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl, https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/

Cooking Matters, https://cookingmatters.org/

The Family Dinner Project, https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/about-us/benefits-of-family-dinners/

Read Full Post »

To some it may seem old fashioned, or a thing of the past, but family meals are a proven way to help strengthen families. Years of research has found that the more children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they were to smoke, drink or use drugs. Why? Eating dinner together has a positive effect on social development, family communication, nutritional intake and the development of the family structure.  The conversations that go hand-in-hand with dinner help parents learn more about their children’s lives and help them better understand the challenges their kids face each day.

The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in a research survey of teens and parents found that,  compared to teens who have five to seven family dinners a week, those who dine with their families fewer than three nights are:

  1. Three and a half times likelier to have abused prescriptions drugs
  2. Three times likelier to have tried marijuana
  3. More than two and a half times likelier to have tried cigarettes
  4. One and a half times likelier to have tried alcohol

CASA research shows teens are at a greater risk of substance abuse as they move from middle school to high school. It is especially important for parents to stay involved during this time.  Dinner is one way to make this happen.  It is never too early or too late to start the tradition of regular family dinners with your children.

Besides getting to know your children/teens better, there are other advantages to having frequent family dinners. When children and teens eat at a family table they:

  • Have healthier eating habits
  • Have lower levels of tension and stress at homefamily meal
  • Are more likely to say their parents are proud of them
  • Are likelier to say they confide in their parents
  • Are likelier to make better grades in school
  • Are more emotionally content and have positive relationships
  • Are at lower risk for thought of suicide

As a parent of five children, I know all too well, the battles of balancing work and family to get the meal on the table with the majority of the children each night, but with some planning, you can outwit common family mealtime obstacles and use dinner as a forum to strengthen family ties.   Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Set the mood.  Try eating at a clutter-free table without the television in the background, and no handheld devices.
  • Divide and conquer.  Let everyone help.  Many busy hands make the job easier.
  • Plan ahead.  Be sure all family members know what you expect, when to have their hands washed and their appetites ready.  Dinner does not have to be at the same time every night but let family know in advance.  Posting the menu on the refrigerator is a good idea.  Let the children choose what foods they would like to eat.
  • Cook up the conversation.  Save unpleasant topics for another time.  Be a good listener.  Practice reflective listening and use “I” messages.
  • “May I be excused?”  Clearly define the end of the meal.  Relax, and enjoy the meal together.

Remember that families do not change overnight.  Make small changes each day or week.  Time flies by so quickly in this fast-moving world, but remember that what your kids really want at the dinner table is YOU!


Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (2001), May 9, 2001. http://www.casacolumbia.org/index/htm.

Compan, E., Moreno, J., Ruiz, M.T., & Pascual, E. (2002). Doing things together: Adolescent health and family rituals. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,  56: 89-94.

Ohio State University Extension, Ohioline, Factsheet FLM-FS-4-03. http:/ohioline.osu.edu.

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County

Reviewed by: Kristen Corry, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Noble & Monroe Counties

Read Full Post »

Studies show families who eat meals together regularly benefit.  Both parents and kids are included in these benefits.  Food patterns for the future generation are healthier when families eat together. In other words, eating together today can impact healthy food patterns of tomorrow. University of Minnesota research shows that teens that ate meals together with their family ate more fruits, vegetables, dairy with a good source of calcium, and dark green vegetables. The teens also drank fewer soft drinks and had a better nutrient intake.

Quality time spent together is also increased.  The kids in families that eat together are shown to have better vocabulary skills and higher test scores.  Studies show these kids fare better physically, emotionally, and intellectually with greater self confidence.  An Iowa State University Extension study revealed that families who eat meals together teach kids table manners, family values, basic cooking skills, and a sense of community.

Studies show most families believe eating together to be very important. The surveys show 88 percent of families believe this to be very or extremely important.  The top barriers to meals together include conflicting schedules, work schedules, and kids’ activities.  This time seems to become harder to find as the kids get older and become teens.  Teen drug and alcohol use is connected to number of meals eaten together. Studies show that the more often a teen eats dinner with his or her family the less likely they are to drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs illegally.

Family Eating Dinner

In conclusion, the simple act of family meals can do so much to benefit the whole family. With the costs of food rising, cooking, and eating at home as a family certainly can be cost effective, but as stated earlier, the other benefits can really play a huge role in making that family meal a priority.

Source:  Ohio State University Extension, Ohioline, Factsheet FLM-FS-4-03.


Author: Liz Smith, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

Read Full Post »