(Family Features) - As children grow older and increase their extracurricular activities, meals eaten as a family often decrease. But, studies show that families who manage to continue to eat dinner together benefit from better communication, stronger relationships and improved nutrition.
Here are simple and creative ways to turn meal time into family time.
Cook Together Before You Eat. Bond by cooking with your kids. It may take longer to get the meal or snack done, but the moments with your children will be priceless. Plus, kids are more apt to eat what they help make. They'll boost their self-esteem by accomplishing a task, practice creativity and feel the importance of contributing to the family. Even toddlers can help wash fruits and vegetables, measure and stir.
Take It Outside. Plan an outdoor activity each weekend and take dinner with you. The entire family will quickly see an improvement in energy levels, sleep habits and moods. This Kiwifruit Shrimp Banh Mi sandwich is the perfect 'pack-and-go' meal, paired with a cold salad if desired.
Plan Weekly Menus Together. This activity gives each family member a favorite dish to anticipate all week. Gather together around the computer or your favorite cookbook. Big families may want to create cooking teams to each prepare a few of the chosen meals.
Try New Ingredients and Add Color. A child needs about 12 tastes of a food to develop a preference for it. So, don't give up if your child doesn't like something on the first try. Some kids love the tangy-sweet flavor of kiwifruit on its own, but it also makes a tasty addition to smoothies, yogurt and salads. Kiwifruit can also be used to boost the color and flavor of cooked foods. Just add it to hot dishes at the very last minute to retain the fruit's bright color.
Selection and Ripening Tips
Look for plump, smooth-skinned kiwifruit with no wrinkles or bruises. Ripe kiwifruit will yield to gentle pressure, like a ripe peach. If kiwifruit is still firm when purchased, you can put it in a paper bag with bananas or apples to speed up the ripening process.
New Zealand kiwifruit growers (Zespri brand) use only natural growing methods for a safe and high-quality eating experience. Zespri kiwifruit are easy to find in your local retailer, and are available May - November.
Find more family recipes at www.zesprikiwi.com and go to www.TheGreatKiwiAdventure.com for your chance to win a trip for 4 to New Zealand, including airfare, accommodation and day trips.