Many of us might not be familiar with a Pennsylvania campaign called “Eat Together PA.” There is another initiative “Dine In” slated for Dec. 3. Why all the hoopla around eating together at home?
There are a number of studies that show the benefits of eating together make it worth the effort. First, studies have shown most people eat more balanced meals and a wider variety of foods when they eat with family or friends. If you’re thinking of you and your families’ health, share a meal with family and/or friends and boost your nutrition.
Second, if you have children, they will learn from your positive role modeling. That means when you try a new food, most likely they will also. Good table manners are also best learned this way. Holidays should not be the only time families and friends eat together. This is a great time of year to share traditional foods that might not have been made for years.
Eating together as a family will also strengthen family bonds. Family meals offer a chance to communicate and help build a strong commitment to one another. That can start at a very young age.
It’s tough to get over the hurdles of eating together at home. If this is new for you, make it a goal for one day a week by making it a priority. It might mean you need to drop one thing to have more time for family meals.
Get everyone involved in the dinner. Plan the meal together and delegate some of the jobs – including clean up.
Keep the meal simple and easy. Save the multitude of dishes and pots and pans for when you have more time. Below is an easy-to-make meal that has worked for us as a family. Hope it will do the same for you.
Last, but not least, turn the TV off and leave the cell phones in another room. Twenty minutes for dinner isn’t too long between texts and TV shows. Also, leave the negative conversations about behavior until another time, as well.
Celebrate Dine In Day on Dec. 3 in memory of a woman committed to growing healthy families. Ellen Swallow Richards was the first woman graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of the studies of family consumer sciences. Dec. 3 is her birthday.
Easy Skillet Beef a Roni (uses only one pot)
1 pound ground beef
1 onion (small, chopped)
1 bell pepper (chopped)
2 cans low-sodium tomatoes (diced, drained, about 30 ounces)
1 cup macaroni (uncooked)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium tomato juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano (optional)
1 can low-sodium kidney beans (drained and smashed if desired)
In a large pan, cook ground beef over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain fat.
Add onion, green pepper and tomatoes to ground beef and cook until onion turns light brown. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Add macaroni, tomato juice, spices and beans to the pan. Stir well. Cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir and serve hot.
Tip for cooking ground beef: The recommended safe minimum internal temperature for ground beef is 160 degrees F, as measured with a food thermometer. By adding smashed beans, no one will know and you saved money.
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org