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From our blog.

What’s For Dinner?

AMY GARDNER / May 8, 2012

Jackie Ballou, MS, RD

Eating dinner as a family holds benefits that go beyond nutrition.  Kids who eat more family meals at home are more apt to have better quality diets than those who eat more meals out.  Research shows that teens eating regular family meals at home are less likely to use drugs, experience better mental health and eat more fruits and vegetables overall.  Studies indicate that television-free family meal times are opportunity areas for bonding and teaching kids about nutrition.

But, what about lacrosse practice, homework, and starving kids?

As a pediatric dietitian, I work with many families who are strapped for time.  Parents often tell me how difficult it is to manage cooking healthy dinners amongst all the other priorities of a busy family.
Here are some tips along with some of my favorite resources.

Planning Ahead is Key
Create a weekly menu of dinners, and include the kids in the planning.  That way, everyone has a “say” in what’s for dinner.  Get ingredients for the week to make things easy when the dinner hour arrives.  Need some inspiration?  The Dinner Daily (www.thedinnerdaily.com) is a one-stop site dedicated to helping families with meal planning.  For $5 per month, subscribers receive a week’s worth of kid-friendly, nutritious meal recipes, along with corresponding food shopping lists and a list of available savings and coupons at your local grocery stores.

Mix it Up
Invariably, it is easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to changing up the dinner menu.  But, trying new recipes is a chance to expand the family’s taste preferences and offer different nutrients.  For a wealth of easy and nutritious recipes developed by dietitians for families, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Kids Eat Right website:  www.kidseatright.org.

Use Technology to Your Advantage
You may be familiar with Real Simple Magazine, but did you know they have an app called “No Time To Cook”for the IPhone, IPad and Android?  The app allows users to select ingredients they have on hand (poultry, beef or lamb, pork, seafood, pasta or vegetarian) as well as the time they have available for meal preparation (20, 30 or 40 minutes).  The search compiles a list of several delicious recipes that meet the criteria entered.  If desired, you can also filter the search further to suit your needs (“low calorie” and “family friendly” are a few examples).  Food shopping lists are available for each recipe, and can either be texted or emailed.  For more information go to: http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/technology/iphone-ipad/index.html.