Cooking for a Busy Family
By Jackie Cartier
June 16, 2016
When Two Pans and A Pot cookbook landed in our mailbox we were skeptical. We get a lot of cookbooks sent our way that ultimately don't really fit our balanced Weight & Wellness Way of eating. But Two Pans and A Pot cookbook author Barry Sayewitz got it and the dishes sound and look delicious. Pecan Crusted Salmon with Basil Cream and Asparagus and Zucchini Pea Pancakes with Yogurt Mint Sauce were two that we can't wait to try. The cookbook isn't just about recipes though, throughout Barry highlights the importance of family meals. We could not agree more. For busy families, getting everyone together for a meal seems as impossible as winning the lottery, but it doesn't have to be! Sure the schedules will need to be juggled but the benefits will last a lifetime.
To learn more about how real families make family meals work we chatted with Barry and a busy mom right here at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, Cassie Weness, LD, RD.
Q: Describe how important a consistent family meal is for your family and why?
Barry: The more often you eat together as a family the better emotional, mental, and physical health your children will enjoy. We've found that family mealtime provides a sense of security, unity and identity.
Cassie: Agreed! I have a two-fold answer to add to that. First, when you can get your family gathered to eat at the dinner table you can fuel the growing bodies of your children with real food. What your kids are putting in their mouth today is laying the foundation for their health, or lack of it, as adults. Second, when the family comes together at meal time and the TV is turned off, this is when happenings of the day, good and bad, get talked out. Family meal time can be a great de-stressor for everyone and is a wonderful time to build relationships.
Q. What tips would you give a family trying to make meal time a priority?
Barry: Kids thrive on structure. Set a time for family meals and know that activities can be planned around it. It helps to get the kids involved in the whole process—helping to set the table, doing some of the food preparation, helping to plan menus and grocery shop. Make meal time family time.
Cassie: Something I do every week is ask my kids for one or two main entrée items they'd like to see on the upcoming week's dinner menu—they know they have to offer a healthy suggestion! Giving them that option brings an excitement on the night their dish is served ... no persuading them to eat needed on those evenings! I also like to give them a chance to partake in menu planning because it helps them become savvy in putting together a balanced meal containing real protein, vegetable carbohydrates and healthy fat.
Q: At meal time and snack time what can I do to make sure that my child is eating healthy food?
Cassie: First and foremost, make sure "the healthy choice is the easy choice" when your child opens the fridge or the pantry door at home. For example, if you have grapes washed, removed from the stems and placed in a clear glass jar or container your child will be more likely to grab these as an afternoon snack versus unwashed grapes hidden in a produce drawer. Another great idea is to slice up grass-fed summer sausage and place three to four slices in a clear snack size bag so they are easy to grab. Again, making the healthy choice the easy, and visible, choice. As far as healthy eating at meal time is concerned, be sure that you and your partner are modeling healthy eating habits. Actions speak louder than words!
And when life gets so crazy you think you don't have time to eat healthy, simply pull out your crockpot! You can put a beef roast (or any meat of your choosing) in the crockpot in the morning; pour ½ cup of beef broth over the top; sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme; cover and cook on low until it's time for that evening's meal. Not only will the house smell great, but you'll have delicious and tender meat ready to serve when you walk through the door in the evening. Simply pair the meat with steamed green beans (if you buy these frozen they cook in a matter of minutes) and fruit kabobs. I buy 8 inch wooden skewers and thread grapes and strawberry halves onto them for an easy and kid-friendly side dish. Preparing this meal will take you less time than sitting in the fast food drive through, and you can feel good knowing you are fueling your kids' bodies well.
Q: When you're having a hectic day what's the easiest meal you'd put together for your family?
Cassie: On the craziest days I'm not even going to attempt turning the stove or crockpot on. I simply pull out a stick of Thousand Hills Grass-Fed Beef Summer Sausage (I always keep this on hand for emergencies!) and slice it up. Then I serve the summer sausage with rice crackers, baby carrots and celery sticks and of course, some of the Nutritional Weight & Wellness Lil' Dipper dip (sometimes this is the only way my kiddos will eat raw veggies!). I also cut up whatever fruit I have in the fridge, usually just apples and strawberries and serve a fruit plate as well. It doesn't have to be fancy—it just needs to offer protein, vegetable and fruit carbohydrates and some healthy fat!