(Family Features) - Finding time to be together as a family can be challenging in today's fast-paced world. When schedules have parents and children scurrying, it's hard to envision fitting in another activity. For many families, one of the prime opportunities to spend quality time centers on the dinner table.
According to a recent study by Kraft Foods conducted with its "What's Cooking" magazine readers, 92 percent of households surveyed believe a sit-down evening meal is a time for the family. Dinner is one of the main meals that everyone eats at home, and it presents an occasion for family members to connect.
In fact, according to Peter Zollo's "Getting Wiser to Teens" (Ithaca, N.Y.: New Strategist Publications, 2003), 79 percent of adolescents named dinnertime as one of the top-rated activities that they like to do with their parents. What's more, eating together as a family can have a positive effect on dietary quality in older children and adolescents. The American Dietetic Association reports that children tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods at meals shared with their parents.
Carving out time for a family dinner can do more than nourish your body, as it also fulfills a need for family bonding. So how do you get the most out of your family mealtime? Here are a few quick tips that will help children stay at the table for more than just dinner:
- Keep a blank grocery list on the fridge and allow all family members to write down their favorite items. If they feel more involved in the meal planning, it will encourage them to relish the meal and time with family.
- Include the children in simple meal preparation steps. You'll be surprised how much more interested they are in the food and its presentation when they have taken an active part.
- Give everyone at the table a chance to share the day's events, relating the best thing that happened to them or perhaps something positive another family member did.
- Select recipes that maximize your time. Meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, have just three steps or contain seven or fewer common ingredients will give you more time to enjoy the meal and the company of your family.
- Collect recipes for easy-to-prepare one dish meals and make sure you keep those ingredients on hand in your pantry and refrigerator. Family favorites like Stove Top's Easy Chicken Bake are a great way to save on prep time, while still allowing you to warm up the family with a satisfying meal.