Eat Together, Eat Better

According to a recent survey, only 30% of American families report eating at least three meals together in a week, while 10% report eating no meals together!

According to a recent survey, only 30% of American families report eating at least three meals together in a week, while 10% report eating no meals together! Skipping family meals may seem harmless, but recent studies link regular family meals with lower rates of risky behaviors and depression, as well as higher academic performance and self-esteem in children and young adults.

Fortunately, it’s possible to prepare a quick and nutritious meal your family can enjoy- together! Follow these tips to spend less time in the kitchen and more time around the table.

Plan: According to data from the Hartman Group, more than half of dinners in America are planned within an hour of eating. That’s too late! Avoid last-minute stress and the inevitable (and probably not-so-healthy) takeout order by making a weekly dinner menu.

Prep: Cook vegetables, brown meat, shred cheese, and mix dressings or marinades to store in the fridge, ready to go for those frantic weeknights. Remember: Eating together as a family doesn’t always mean a sit-down dinner. Breakfast is an excellent opportunity to share a meal. Overnight oats paired with milk provide calcium, vitamin D, and protein to power through busy mornings. They’re perfect for busy mornings.

Pack Pantry and Fridge Essentials: Stock your pantry and fridge with your family’s favorite meal ingredients that can be tossed together for an easy one-pot meal, like whole wheat pasta, frozen vegetables, and shredded cheese. Cheese is a great addition to any pantry meal and can be incorporated into most diets. For vegetarians, cheese is an important source of high-quality protein. People with lactose intolerance can enjoy natural cheeses that are low in lactose, such as Cheddar and Swiss.

Eating meals as a family definitely takes more effort in today’s hectic world. But the double helping of physical, social, and mental benefits served over family meals is time well spent.

Ancient Grain Hot Cereal

Difficulty: Easy

Yield: 14 cups

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 6 hours on low

Source: Rebecca Egsieker, The Dairy Chef

◆ 1 cup quinoa ◆ 1 cup steel cut oats ◆ 1 cup amaranth ◆ 1/2 cup flax seeds ◆ 8 cups milk ◆ 2 cups water ◆ 1/2 cup brown sugar ◆ 2 tablespoons butter ◆ 1 tablespoon vanilla ◆ 2 teaspoons cinnamon ◆ 1 teaspoon salt ◆ 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Coat the bottom and sides of a 6-quart slow cooker with butter. Add quinoa through water into slow-cooker insert. Whisk together until well blended. Add sugar, butter and spices. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 hours. Remove lid and scoop one cup into bowls, pour warm cream or milk over top, add chopped nuts, fresh seasonal berries and a drizzle of maple syrup if desired.

Registered Dietitian |

Laura Marbury is a registered dietitian and serves as the Food and Nutrition Outreach Manager for The Dairy Alliance. She is responsible for implementing nutrition programs for health professionals, educators, and consumers, including conducting television, radio and print interviews on nutrition throughout the Southeast. Visit or follow @theDairyRD for delicious one-dish recipes and nutrition tips.

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