Providing quick and healthy meals is the ultimate challenge for harried parents. Your kids are always on the go, and you have many demands on your time. Family meals are no longer unhurried affairs, but that doesn’t diminish their importance. In fact, family meals are probably more essential than ever, given our hectic lives.
Research shows that children who eat family meals get more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat, and have an overall higher-quality diet. Gathering at the table allows you to connect with loved ones during your busy day. Parents and other caregivers serve as role models, and mealtime helps younger family members to learn good table manners and healthy eating habits.
Family life can be chaotic, but it’s possible to preserve family mealtime and maintain a hectic schedule. Here are some simple strategies and tips to help you get quick, healthy meals on the table in no time.
Experts agree: If there is a most important meal, it must be breakfast.
“Studies suggest that children who skip the morning meal run a greater risk of being overweight,” says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, a Boston-based spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
In addition, it’s next to impossible for children, and adults, to make up for the nutrients lost by skipping breakfast.
“Healthy breakfast foods, such as milk and whole grains, provide an array of nutrients necessary for proper growth and good health, including iron, calcium, vitamin D, and fiber,” Salge Blake says.
Breakfast's effect on academic performance is a no-brainer: After about 10 hours or so without food, eating in the morning fuels the brain and body for the day ahead.
Salge Blake tells WebMD that breakfast eaters tend to be less disruptive in the classroom and may also be better learners because their stomachs are satisfied and it’s easier for them to focus on school work.
Fast, Healthy Breakfast Meals
Eating anything at all in the morning is a good idea, but the ideal breakfast supplies adequate complex carbohydrate, protein, and some healthy fat, according to Bonnie Taub-Dix, MS, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It (Plume).
Complex carbohydrates keep glucose levels steady in the blood, which makes for a longer-lasting supply of energy for the brain and body. Protein and healthy fats, like those found in trans-fat free tub margarine, olive oil, and nuts help to keep you and your family full for longer.
Because mornings tend to be chaotic, Salge Blake advises simplicity and planning. “When you pack lunch, pack breakfast, too, especially on the days when kids are rushing out the door early.”
If you or your children don’t like typical breakfast foods, don’t worry. Go for a nontraditional breakfast such as whole grain crackers, cheddar cheese, and grapes. Or serve a small piece of cheese pizza and a glass of 100% juice – or a half sandwich, milk, and fruit.