By Gina Noe
The approaching holiday season re-inforces a truth about eating: Dining at home with family and friends is rewarding, fun and enjoyable.
In the coming year, consider making cooking and dining at home a priority in your family. It controls food costs and helps with weight management, and it brings a family together.
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, visit 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 cuisines from cultures, such as Thai, Indian, Italian or Mexican, that rely less on meat. For example, hearty meatless chili, home-made vegetarian pizza, a Thai noodle bowl, or mattar panner, an Indian dish of peas and cheese, make unusual and delicious meatless entrees.
The extension-service website provides valuable information about cooking and eating more meals at home at www.extension.org/pages/
(Source: Ingrid Adams, UK extension specialist for nutrition and weight management)
For more information, please contact the Madison County Cooperative Extension Service, 623-4072.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.