News: dinner

7 Reasons to Eat Family Dinner Together

By Gen Cohen

Research shows that sharing dinner as a family improves teenage behaviors, increases toddler vocabulary and teaches kids to eat healthier. Check out these benefits of eating with family:

By Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D. via parenting.com

Over the last 20 years, dozens of studies have confirmed what parents have known intuitively for a long time: Sitting down for a nightly dinner is good for the spirit, the brain and the body. Research shows that shared meals are tied to many teenage behaviors that parents pray for: reduced rates of substance abuse, eating disorders and depression; and higher grade point averages and self-esteem. For young children, conversation at the table is a bigger vocabulary booster than reading aloud to them. The icing on the cake is that kids who eat regular family dinners grow up to be young adults who eat healthier and have lower rates of obesity.

As a working mother, who has learned by trial and error with my two sons and husband, and as a family therapist, who asks every family about their dinners, this is what else I've learned:

1. It doesn't have to be daily.

You don't have to have dinner every night to reap the benefits. It could be breakfast, a weekend brunch, a take-a-break-snack at night or a combination of these. And there's no magic number. The point is to make a commitment to a family meal where everyone sits down to share food, have fun and talk about things that matter.

2. Play with your food.

With so much of our play now conducted online, adults and children have lost the opportunity to play with real objects that can be touched, smelled and transformed. So play together. Cooking is an activity that still involves our senses and our hands, and it is something we still can do together. You can set out salad fixings and have everyone choose vegetables to create faces, trees and cars. Play with taste by slipping in a new flavor or spice and asking everyone to guess the ingredients.

3. It's doable.

Despite parent's hectic work schedules and kids' busy extracurricular activities, it's very doable to have nightly dinner. The whole process of cooking and eating together can take just an hour (less than 30 minutes to cook and the average meal is 22 minutes*), and that hour is transformative. If we still planted vegetables, played instruments for our entertainment and quilted on the front porch, we might not need family dinners, but it's the most reliable time of day that we have to connect with one another. When kids feel connected to their parents, it's like a seatbelt on the potholed road of childhood.

4. Try new activities and share talents.

Dinner can be a great place to try out new behaviors. A family dinner is like an improvisatory theater performance. The family shows up night after night, and as a group they can try out new ways of interacting with one another. Or, one member's behavior can set off a cascade of others. For example, a family might agree to refrain from making any negative comments at the table and see what happens. Or, a teenager might be invited to make a family dinner or to create a musical soundtrack for the meal.

5. Share your family history.

The dinner table is the best place to tell stories, and kids who know their family stories are more resilient and feel better about themselves. Most inspiring are lemonade-from-lemon stories, stories about adversity where a lesson is learned, or negative events that transform into something good. Stories help us make sense of the world, and they help kids connect to something bigger than themselves. Tell stories about yourself and other family members when they were the same age as your children. Tell stories about romance, first jobs, immigration, how names were chosen, a childhood pet, a favorite recipe or kitchen disaster.

6. Stay connected.

Table conversation is one of the richest language experiences you can provide for your children. When else do we sit and talk for several minutes, offering lots of comments and explanations on one topic? Try asking questions that go beyond, "How was your day?" For example, instead ask everyone to tell a rose (something positive) and a thorn (something negative) about the day, as well as a bud (what you wish will happen tomorrow).

7. It's good for you, too.

Rituals like dinner, which punctuate a world that often feels frenzied and out of control, are good for adults, too. Knowing that one part of your day is going to unfold in basically the same way, day after day, is comforting.

So, I'm ringing the dinner bell and inviting you and your family to come to the table. Dinner is more than a feeding station. Food will bring the family to the table, but it's the conversation and stories that keeps us there. In an hour, you can create comfort, fun, play and meaningful conversation—one meal at a time.

Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D., author of "Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids," is the director of the Family and Couples Therapy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate clinical professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School. She is the cofounder of The Family Dinner Project and writes the popular blog "Digital Family" for "Psychology Today." You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

*Ramey SL, Juliusson HK. Family dynamics at dinner: A natural context for revealing basic family processes. In Families, Risk, and Competence, Lewis M, Feiring, C. (eds.) New York: Rutledge, 1998.

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21 Pool-Party Pastas the Kids Will Love!

By Gen Cohen

 

 

21 Pool-Party Pastas the Kids Will Love!

Pasta salad is a staple at summertime pool parties, picnics, and BBQs. But after your first few batches, you start to get a little bored by the dish, and so do your kids! Kick it up a notch with these tasty (and healthy!) recipes that highlight the season's best ingredients. From "cool" mac and cheeses to colorful pasta salads, these pasta and macaroni salad recipes for kids will have your little ones asking for seconds without a sweat!

1. Grilled Ratatouille Pasta Salad

Grilled Ratatouille Pasta Salad

Got leftover grilled vegetables? Turn them into this tasty pasta dish from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod

2. Macaroni Salad With Chickpeas

 

 

Macaroni Salad With ChickpeasMacaroni with a kick of protein: what could be better? Unlike most macaroni salads, My Whole Food Life's healthy dish is a great option for meatless Mondays!

Source: My Whole Food Life

3. Confetti Pasta SaladConfetti Pasta Salad

Loaded with seasonal veggies like cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, Peas and Crayons' confetti pasta salad will become a pool-party staple.

Source: Peas and Crayons

4. Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad With Feta and PeasWhole-Wheat Pasta Salad With Feta and PeasClever Carrot's kid-friendly pasta salad actually tastes better the longer it sits. The whole-wheat pasta is a filling option, and the pea shoots give it a nutritious crunch.

Source: The Clever Carrot

5. Chicken Pasta SaladChicken Pasta Salad

Two summertime classics — pasta salad and chicken salad — come together to create one tasty dish.

Source: Circle of Moms user Robin Bunker

6. Southwestern Pasta SaladSouthwestern Pasta Salad

Packed with protein and veggies, Two Peas and Their Pod's fiesta-inspired salad is great as a side dish or main course. To avoid a soggy salad, serve the dressing on the side.

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod

7. Pesto Pasta SaladPesto Pasta Salad

If you want to sneak some extra veggies into your tot's pesto pasta salad, substitute half of the basil with spinach.

Source: POPSUGAR Food

8. Orzo Salad

Orzo Salad

Orzo makes a great, light alternative to traditional pastas.

Source: Circle of Moms user Nicole Diffenbaugh

9. BBQ Macaroni Salad

BBQ Macaroni SaladMel's Kitchen Cafe kicks up traditional macaroni salad with kielbasa, peppers, and BBQ sauce.

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

10. Avocado, Shrimp, and Pasta Salad

Avocado, Shrimp, and Pasta Salad

A great lunchbox or picnic dish, Good Cooks' avocado pasta salad is easy to make and bursting with flavor. Try making different variations by substituting chicken for shrimp or using seasonal vegetables throughout the year.

Source: Good Cooks

11. Tricolor Pasta
Tricolor PastaKids will be able to taste the rainbow in Mel's Kitchen Cafe's vibrant pasta salad.

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

12. 5-Ingredient Pasta Salad

5-Ingredient Pasta SaladEverything you need to make Gimme Some Oven's simple salad is probably already in your pantry and fridge.

Source: Gimme Some Oven

13. Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

Thanks to its tangy taste, Sunny Side Up's pasta salad is sure to be a dish everyone will enjoy. Try adding your own twist using fun-shaped pasta.

Source: Sunny Side Up

14. Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Kids with or without a gluten intolerance will devour Keep It Simple, Keep It Fresh's gluten-free creation.

Source: Keep It Simple, Keep It Fresh

15. Crab Pasta Salad

Crab Pasta Salad

Take advantage of the season's fresh seafood, and whip up this crab-filled salad.

Source: Circle of Moms user Sarah Schroer

16. Sunbutter Noodles

Sunbutter Noodles

Shh, don't tell the kids that these noodles are actually strips of zucchini. Oatmeal With a Fork's sunbutter noodles fill the kids with nutrients without them knowing!

Source: Oatmeal With a Fork

17. Pasta With White Beans and Tomatoes

Pasta With White Beans and Tomatoes

The Clever Carrot's simple pasta recipe has seasonal favorites like arugula and white beans for creaminess.

Source: Good Life Eats

18. Home-Style Macaroni Salad

Home-Style Macaroni Salad

Peas and Crayons' home-style macaroni salad is Summer's version of your little one's favorite dish. It directly translates to creamy, cheesy goodness with a (healthy) catch.

Source: Peas and Crayons

19.Crazy Delicious Pasta Salad

Crazy Delicious Pasta SaladWith ingredients like fresh vegetables and Summer sausage, we can understand why Keep It Simple, Keep It Fresh dubbed this a crazy delicious salad.

Source: Keep It Simple, Keep It Fresh

20. Pasta Salad Skewers

Pasta Salad Skewers

Thanks to Cooking With My Kid, your child can enjoy pasta salad on the go!

Source: Cooking With My Kid

21. Fruity Pasta Salad

Fruity Pasta Salad

Who said pasta salad can't be a dessert? Western Gardens' sweet salad highlights Summer's best produce — fruit!

Source: Western Gardens

 

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7 Mind-Blowing Ikea Pantry Hacks

By Gen Cohen

Herb Containers

There's nothing better than using fresh herbs in your meals . . . except maybe having them so close at hand! Whip up this colorful herb container garden using an Ikea Socker plant stand and pots. Keep it in your pantry or on your kitchen counter, and fill it with all of your favorite herbs.

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Take the Heat Out of the Kitchen! 20 Summer Crockpot Recipes

By Gen Cohen

Crockpots are a cold-weather essential, but if you're accustomed to putting your slow cooker away from April to September, you may want to reconsider. These 20 easy summer crockpot recipes do what the grill cannot, allowing your dinner to cook itself while you head off to work, summer camp carpool duty, or whatever else the day has in store From pulled pork to vegetarian lasagna that lets you put all of that seasonal squash and zucchini to use, you're guaranteed to find a few great summer crockpot meals ideas to get your family through the second half of summer.

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