Fitting In Family Meals

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 valuable ways to do just that.

The Best Tool
Family meals are one of the best tools to help your children grow into healthy adults.  Jen will share why that is and four steps to make it happen.
Invite Fun to the Table
Showing up to the table isn’t hard with hungry tummies, but keeping the kids at the table during the meal can be another story.  Jen will share three ways to make family dinners more fun to keep everyone at the table.  
Family-Friendly Dinners
Get the family in the kitchen to prepare Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Tenders. Jen will show you how to get the whole family involved.
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How Can You Fit Family Meals In? 
Make The Commitment – Put your family first. 
  1. Take a break from the rest of the world and focus on your family during meals. Turn off technology such as cell phones, television and e-mails.
  2. Be flexible: Things come up - pack a picnic and eat on the go, or stretch your meal out by having dinner with one parent and dessert with the other.
  3. Remember family meals can be any meal. If supper will be spent running, have a family breakfast that day. 
Make It Simple – Don’t make a family meal into more work than it needs to be.
  1. Pre-make meals. Cook double batches and freeze one for later use.
  2. Have everyone help. Get meals done faster and let kids have fun (plus they will be more likely to eat what they prepare).
  3. Plan ahead! A flexible weekly menu planner can go a long way, to ensure you have everything on hand and ready to go. Tip - Have each family member come up with one meal for the week to make this an easier process.
Make It Fun – Before you know it everyone will be looking forward to the family meal of the day.
  1. Create meals based on favorite books.
  2. Compete in a family version of Iron Chef. Let the kids help choose ingredients and develop a menu around them. 
  3. Play games to get everyone talking and enjoying their meal. 
Make It Matter – The table is one of the few places where families have consistent conversations. 
  1. Ask open-ended questions so they can talk about various topics.
  2. Invest in Chatmats (placemats that feed mealtime conversation).
  3. Discuss at least one thing that happened in everyone’s day.
  4. Remember to keep conversations positive and give everyone a chance to speak.
Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Tenders
Serves 4.
Active time: 10 minutes | Total: 30 minutes
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
1/4 cup Hy-Vee all-purpose flour
2 large Hy-Vee eggs
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat
1 pound Hy-Vee 100% natural fresh chicken tenders
1 tablespoon Hy-Vee Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon Hy-Vee garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup marinara sauce, heated
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a large wire rack on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray.
2. Place flour in a shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in another shallow dish. Combine Parmesan and breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish. Toss tenders with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt in a medium bowl. Coat each tender in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in egg and let any excess drip off. Then roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the tenders on the prepared rack. Generously coat the top of each tender with cooking spray.
3. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn each tender over and coat with cooking spray. Continue baking until the outside is crisp and the tenders are cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Serve the tenders with marinara sauce for dipping.
Nutrition facts per serving: 293 calories; 8g fat (3g sat, 2g mono); 140mg cholesterol; 22g carbohydrate; 0g added sugars; 31g protein; 3g fiber; 603mg sodium; 465mg potassium.
Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.
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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.