By cooking meals at home, you can introduce your children to a wide variety of vegetables and fruits that they might not experience any other way. This can help them learn to enjoy eating vegetables at a very early age. By eating at home, they have a better chance of getting the fiber and vitamins that they need in their daily diet.
When you eat at home, you can control the portion size of the food your children eat. As portion sizes of the meals at restaurants get larger, so do Americans. One simple way to control portion sizes is to use a smaller plate. By using a smaller plate, it looks as if you are eating more even though the portion size is smaller. Studies have shown there is a smaller percentage of depression, suicide and eating disorders in children and teens who eat with their families on a nightly basis.
Children who eat with their families at dinnertime are more likely to receive better grades. At the dinner table, families can discuss school and find out if the student needs any assistance. Children who eat dinner with their family tend to have a larger vocabulary than those who don’t eat at the dinner table because they are exposed to more words by listening to adults speak.
Eating at home saves you money. The average cost to feed one person a fast food meal in Fairbanks is about $8.50 to $9. Making a meal at home averages out to about $4.50 per person. You can eat for half the cost when you eat at home. Think of all the money you could save!
Now that we have discussed the benefits of eating at home, how are we going to do it? There are several things that you can do to make cooking dinner at home easier, even if you think you don’t have enough time:
· Use your crockpot! Put a roast in the crockpot on low in the morning before you go to work and come home to a house that smells delicious.
· Make double batches and freeze the extra. If you are going to make lasagna, make two pans and freeze the second one for another meal.
· Plan your meals a week in advance and shop for everything you will need to cook for that week all in one shopping trip. This ensures that you have everything you will need for your meals at your fingertips.
Finally, I have heard people say that their kids are not interested in eating at the dinner table and they find it is easier to let them eat on their own than to argue with them. The Family Dinner Project (familydinnerproject.org) is a website that has all types of different ideas for things to do at the dinner table to make it more enjoyable — everything from conversation topics to games that you can play with your children at the table.
Family dinners are an important part of your child’s growing-up years. Family dinners help them maintain their weight, introduce them to new foods and get better grades, and they save money. Make time to schedule family dinnertime with your children this week!
Adrian Kohrt is the family nutrition coordinator for Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907)474-7930.