Did you know that kids learn about food and eating at a very young age? That getting your kids involved in the kitchen can help shape their eating habits for the rest of their lives. Positive experiences about food early on in a child’s life may help them develop healthy eating habits in the future. A recent study found that children who are exposed to cooking through culinary classes or aiding a parent or family member in preparing their meals in their home will be more likely to choose healthier foods not only in your own home, but when they are outside of your home, too. Researchers also found that the children who were involved in meal preparation had a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber and an increased willingness to try new foods.
Need some fun ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen? Try these tips for all ages:
You asked, and we answered with March’s throwback menu! In honor of our anniversary month, we’re bringing back five of our most requested meals from past menus. These old favorites are only available for a limited time, so make sure to add them to your March order.
Never tried these dinners before? You can trust that these new-to-you meals won’t fail to impress. These are all fan favorite recipes that have withstood the test of time, and you won’t want to miss them.
White Chicken Lasagna
This creamy lasagna is layered with tender diced chicken breast, wild mushroom pesto, and spinach. Then topped with Parmesan and the unexpected elegance of toasted pecans. One pan goes from freezer to table in about an hour. Easy for entertaining!
Pesto Chicken Stuffed French Bread
This old favorite has been updated with more sauce and cheese… so delicious! Our signature stuffed French bread bursts with a basil pesto cream cheese spread. Stuffed with chicken and artichoke hearts for an easy dinner. Comes out golden brown and bubbling with flavor.
Mango Chutney Chicken
Super easy! Sweet mango chutney makes a golden sauce that simmers stovetop. This delicious, 25-minute dinner features our all-natural, boneless chicken breasts. Serve over Jasmine rice for a perfect end to your day.
At a signing for our book, The Hour that Matters Most, one mom shared her transforming story about one simple dinnertime change that made all the difference with her daughter. Because her husband worked a late shift, she always fed her toddler dinner early while she bustled about in the kitchen. Later, when her husband arrived home, she would sit down to eat dinner with him.
This mom was so fun to meet as she excitedly told me about something she’d picked up from the book. She realized she was overlooking the connection opportunity with her daughter at mealtimes and implemented a new habit. Now, she always sits down at the table with a cup of tea and enjoys her daughter’s company. What a difference it’s made! They chat, face to face, which warms her heart and their relationship! This mom’s found a valuable opportunity to connect with her daughter while still saving time for dinner with her husband.
4 more tips for making sure to connect with our little ones at meals:
While visiting from out-of-town, Grandma (my mom), was having breakfast with us when her cell phone rang. This was a predicament for the kids who turned to me wondering what I’d do (knowing we don’t allow cell phones at the table). Since Grandma has disregarded our house rule before, I thought it a good time to kindly ask, “Do you mind not answering that?” She looked at me, thought for a ring, and then answered it anyway! We sat trying to enjoy our meal while she carried on a conversation with someone else at the table. She eventually got up and walked away. But, by then, everyone was nearly done and our ‘quality time’ felt spoiled.
Now, Grandma LOVES her grandchildren. She didn’t realize what affect her choice had on us. No doubt, we’ve all made decisions that have been detrimental to quality mealtimes together. The point of having dinnertime ground rules is to enjoy one another. Although unfortunate, this experience taught my kids a little lesson on why we don’t allow cell phones at the table – and I didn’t have to preach.
Since I’m making the effort of prioritizing family meals, it’s important to guard our time from unwelcome interference. Although some meals feel like ‘eat-and-run,’ I want to make room for more: real discussion and heartwarming laughter.
When eating together, try these mealtime ground rules:
Would you like to really know how someone feels or what they’re thinking? We ask the question, “How are you?” all day long, but do we really know how a co-worker, spouse, or even our children are doing? Just Observe, Wait, and Listen (OWL), it’s that easy!
We adapt this approach from Speech Pathologists who began using OWL in language development. It’s a valuable communication tool for us all.
OWL encourages us to notice what has captured other’s interest and to patiently wait as they communicate about it. Listening shows people their value. When we aim first to hear what’s on their mind, rather than dominating conversation with our thoughts and opinions, we’ll discover just how much we’ve been missing!
Tonight, at your family dinner, I challenge you to OWL.
I remember well, my years spent at the Snohomish Soccer Fields. Both of my kids played and their staggered practice times not only cut into our family dinnertime, but bulldozed right over them. Even the weekends were affected since my son’s games were on Saturdays and daughter’s on Sundays.
Eventually, I realized, “This isn’t working!” Sometimes it takes a while to catch up to the reality of our circumstances.
My friend had an ah-ha like this too, she realized that treating her toddlers to fast food had become a habit.
Her mentor asked, “How many meals do your kids eat in the car staring at the back of your head?” Ouch!
We all wake up in moments like this to realize we’ve somehow slipped from our priorities; the casual exception has unintentionally become the rule. This is the learning curve of life when we get an opportunity to do a little realigning.
Can your kids keep an interesting conversation going?
My young adult son and I were recently noticing other people’s inability to hold a conversation. Perhaps you’ve observed conversations that fizzle once you no longer carry the dialogue by asking inquisitive questions. My son works in an industry with a lot of adults, and although younger than most, he finds this same challenge. We soon discover that age, education, and leadership position are no guarantee for the ability to dialogue with others. The point is not to depreciate the person who has a difficult time with conversations, but, to ask, ‘How can I make a difference in my family to develop this life skill?’
How’s conversation modeled at your house?
Growing up, we learn basically by being modeled or taught. When were you modeled or taught to have conversations? How do kids learn to dialogue today? A healthy conversation includes eye contact, reading body language, showing interest, empathetic listening, and offering feedback. It won’t happen in front of a computer, TV or smart phone.
With my kids, dinnertimes were the best setting to have conversations as a family. (Bedtime stories and tucks-in were a close runner up!)There’s so much research supporting the value of family meals in the well-being of children. They develop a richer vocabulary; have higher grades, self-esteem, and resilience. Most likely, it’s not the food that’s making this difference but the quality interactions happening at the table. So, how can you develop your kid’s conversation skills?
Potlucks at my work are the best! From homemade tamales to quiche and fruit, we’ve got it covered. The dishes we share with each other hints of our heritage, hidden talents, and favorite indulgences. Potlucks are hospitality ‘group style.’ They’re a chance to say, ‘You matter to me.’ Who knew food could speak so much? Well, it can, if you want it to.
What does food speak in your home?
This week, my husband went out of his way to bring home Wild Mountain Blackberry Cobbler from my favorite restaurant after my long fast from such delicacies! That spoke love. Yesterday, we all dug into the refrigerator for leftovers since our kitchen plumbing was torn up. That spoke, hum, real life.
Spring sports are in full swing (think baseball, mowed grass, and lots of time in a lawn chair on the side lines)! What spring sport(s) do your cheer on: baseball, softball, track, tennis, lacrosse, girls’ soccer, golf, swimming, and/or volleyball? Who knew there were so many options? Although wonderful and meaningful, they impact our schedules more than ever.
The novice parent has little foreknowledge of just how much life is going to change when junior joins the team or how challenging it will be to have family dinners together again. Maybe after they graduate!
My children are older now so the change in seasons doesn’t have the impact it once did. Back in the day I struggled to juggle work, family responsibilities and the never ending sports schedule.
How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?
Why not have a green-themed dinner party?
On the back of each guest’s place card, write a trivia question using these fun facts below about St. Patrick. Go around the table and have each guest share their question and see who knows the most about the holiday.
Need green menu suggestions?
Why not try Cattleman’s Pie with green peas, Bacon Ranch Green Beans and Key Lime Pie.