October 2019 Issue
Culinary Corner: Simplify Family Meals
By Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN
Vol. 21, No. 10, P. 66
October is Eat Better, Eat Together Month, and there are numerous studies that demonstrate the benefits of eating with others, particularly for families with children and teens (eg, kids’ lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, and depression).1 That said, several barriers prevent many families from eating together as often as they’d like. According to a 2017 survey, one of the top three barriers to dinners at home with family is a lack of time to prepare meals.2 Other obstacles include difficulty finding a recipe everyone likes and a lack of cooking skills. As dietitians, we can encourage clients in these areas.
First, educate clients on time-saving tips in the kitchen. These can include sheet pan suppers, which involve cooking a protein, starch, and/or vegetable all on the same pan. Leftovers generally reheat well for a “cook once, eat twice” approach. Batch cooking is another effective strategy for busy individuals; help clients create a list of nutrient-rich meal components that can be prepared in advance and refrigerated or frozen for future use. Cooked whole grains, such as quinoa and farro, freeze well, and cooked meats and vegetables can be refrigerated and reheated. Leftovers can be used to make “power bowls” with a serving of vegetables, protein, and grains all in one dish.
We also can ease the burden of meal preparation by helping clients identify family-friendly recipes that mesh with their health goals. Work with each client to identify small changes that are doable, such as making ingredient substitutions, practicing more healthful cooking methods, serving reasonable portion sizes, and focusing on family favorites.
In addition, since many Americans lack basic cooking skills and often feel overwhelmed with the idea of cooking more meals at home, encourage clients to attend hands-on cooking classes to help boost their confidence in the kitchen.
This sheet pan dinner features a short ingredient list and simple techniques. Cooking the chicken with the skin on and removing it before eating keeps it moist with relatively the same calorie and fat content as skinless chicken.3
— Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN, is a dietitian and chef with a passion for teaching people to eat healthfully for a happy and delicious life. Ivey offers approachable healthful living tips, from fast recipes to meal prep guides and ways to enjoy exercise on her website, JessicaIveyRDN.com.
1. Benefits of family dinners. The Family Dinner Project website. https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/about-us/benefits-of-family-dinners/
2. Food Marketing Institute. U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017. https://www.fmi.org/forms/store/ProductFormPublic/u-s-grocery-shopper-trends-2017. Published 2017.
3. Atyeo K, Cook D; Chicken Farmers of Canada. Nutrient analysis report: executive summary. https://www.chicken.ca/assets/Health/Nutrient-Analysis-Report-Chicken-Farmers-of-Canada-ENG.pdf. Published April 2014. Accessed July 12, 2019.