Preparing a healthy meal and sharing it together at home is a great way for families to reconnect at the end of the day. But with careers and extra-curricular activities competing for everyone’s attention, it’s not always easy to make time. Consumer Sciences Day is all about finding ways to help deal with this.
To encourage families to eat healthy, together, Family and Community Health Sciences – a part of Rutgers Cooperative Extension – has joined with both the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) in promoting “Dining In for Healthy Families.” This nationwide initiative is set to be held on Thursday, Dec. 3.
The Benefits Consumer Sciences Day
The date selected honors the birthday of AAFCS Founder Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman graduate of MIT. Among her many accomplishments, Richards was solely responsible for designing the Rumford Kitchen exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Richards’ cozy kitchen provided meals to thousands of fair-goers, served up with a side of nutrition education.
Last year, more than 100,000 people committed to preparing and eating a healthy meal together on Dec. 3, according to AAFCS. This year, the organization hopes to double down and have more than 200,000 individuals pledge to dine in with family.
Why is this initiative so important? According to AAFCS, research has shown that the entire family benefits from shared mealtime, which results in better nutrition, improved family communication, the creation of family traditions, and even improves life skills including meal planning, budgeting, and food preparation.
The AAFCS points out that the nationwide obesity epidemic, which especially affects children and teens, has a lot to do with unhealthy eating and lack of food preparation knowledge and education. To make family dinner a bit easier to coordinate, the AAFCS has provided some tips that may help:
- Start small: Increase the number of meals you eat as a family by one per week. Once you’re comfortable with that, increase it by an additional meal.
- Keep the focus on family: Meals don’t need to be elaborate. They just need to be nutritious and shared. If kids can help in the preparation, either with the food or by setting the table, even better!
- Eliminate distractions: Set some ground rules that will ensure each member is giving the family their undivided attention. For example, turn off the television, silence all smart phones, and keep the conversation going.
- Have everyone pitch in: Work as a family to clean up.
Preparing food, setting the table, discussing the day’s events, and tidying up when the meal is over teaches children valuable life skills they can take with them into adulthood.
Tips to Help
If you’re ready to commit to the “Dine In” effort but don’t know what to prepare, FCHS’ Facebook page offers some tasty and healthy recipes to get you started:
This Easy Weeknight Stir Fry features veggies and chicken breast tossed in a savory soy-ginger sauce and served over quinoa. Consider using low-sodium vegetable broth and low-sodium soy sauce to keep your family’s sodium intake to a minimum.
Just because you’re committing to eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert! This Baked Apples with Cinnamon-Oat Topping recipe provides a nice dose of fiber if you leave the skin on the fruit. It can also be enjoyed with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or yogurt.
Visit the Family & Consumer Sciences’ website for additional information, or to sign up to participate in the “Dine In for Healthy Families” initiative.
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