Posted at: 09/18/2012 1:22 PM

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5 Ways to the Table

School is in full swing, and the busy-ness has begun.  With all the research on the importance of family meals, how do parents get a healthy meal to the table?  Jen Haugen, Registered Dietitian at Austin Hy-Vee, will recommend a valuable way to do just that.
Family Meals for Healthy Kids
September 24th is recognized as National Family Day to promote the importance of eating together as a family.  Why is this so important?  Jen will share reasons to get everyone to the table.

Create Fun at Mealtime
Jen will showcase a fun and easy way to get everyone to the table, by creating food stations!

Chicken Nacho Supreme
All you need:
Hy-Vee whole grain tortilla chips*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups diced pre-cooked chicken
1 cup black bean and corn salsa
1 cup Hy-Vee finely shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
Sour cream, green onions, optional

All you do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread a single layer of tortilla chips on baking pan.
  3. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté red bell pepper, stirring constantly, until crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon evenly over chips.
  4. Combine chicken and salsa in a bowl. Spoon over bell peppers. Sprinkle cheese on top.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees, or until cheese is melted.
  6. Serve with sour cream and chopped green onions, if desired.
  7. *Low-fat option: Use baked tortilla chips.

5 Stations for Family Meals

Oatmeal Bar (Because sometimes a family meal is in the morning!) – If you cook your oatmeal in the crockpot overnight, it will be ready to go by morning.  Topping ideas: fresh fruits, thawed frozen fruit, nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, maple syrup, flax seed, chia seed, granola and vanilla yogurt.

Spud Bar – Use frozen Steam n’ Mash potatoes or pre-bake some baked potatoes and have the following toppings available: broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, salsa, green onions, black beans, cheese, rotisserie chicken or diced ham.

Nacho – Top whole grain corn chips with chicken, black beans, salsa, tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, pre-cooked brown rice (find it in the freezer section), crumbled cooked lean hamburger, corn, peppers, plain Greek yogurt, cheese.  Bake it in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese melts.

Pasta – Precook whole grain pasta and top with a variety of sauces: low-fat Alfredo, pesto, marinara, steamed vegetables, cooked shrimp, cooked chicken, reduced-fat meatballs, fresh basil, cheeses, fresh baked bread.

Pizza – Whole grain pita crusts or whole grain tortillas with toppings: cheeses, pesto sauce, pizza sauce, cooked broccoli, diced peppers, canned pineapple tidbits, olives, mushrooms, diced ham, turkey pepperoni, cooked chicken, fresh herbs.

3 Facts About The Importance Of Family Dinners

1. Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:
• Almost four times likelier to use tobacco;
• More than twice as likely to use alcohol;
• Two-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana; and
• Almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future.

2. Teens who have infrequent family dinners are likelier to say they have ready access to alcohol, prescription drugs (without a prescription in order to get high) or marijuana, whereas teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to report having no access to such drugs.

3. Eighteen percent of teens say they would like to spend more time with their parents, while only five percent say they would like to spend less time with their parents. From The Importance of Family Dinners VII Report, September 2011 benefits of family dinners:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity

Check out for more delicious recipes.
Jen Haugen represents Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the community.  Jen is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.