Jenna DeMoss: Preparing family meals is a tricky soup

Published at 5:45pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

So what if dinner isn’t a four-course meal served at 6 p.m., or even seven nights a week? Sitting around the dinner table with your children can provide major benefits. Studies show that families who eat together have children who perform better in school and are less likely to develop future eating disorders, substance abuse, obesity, and depression. Family dinners have also been found to relieve stress and save money.

September is National Family Meals Month, which encourages families to share an extra meal together at home each week. How often are family meals eaten in your home? If that’s less than 2-3 times a week, consider setting one new goal this fall like eating another family meal together. Not sure where to start? Consider these four tips to get the whole family involved:

Start small: Choose one or two nights a week without extra activities where you can sit down with the family to enjoy a meal.

all together now! When cooking together as a family, read the recipe before starting. Discuss how long preparation will take, then place all necessary ingredients and safe kitchen tools on a table that everyone can reach.

Give everyone a turn: Get the kids involved and divide up meal preparation tasks based on your kids’ ages and abilities. Measuring and mixing ingredients are math and science learning moments, while small muscle skills are developed from cooking tasks. Recipes and nutrition labels provide opportunities for reading comprehension, and as children get older, they can take on more complex tasks, such as chopping vegetables or developing different garnishing combinations to encourage their culinary creativity and independence. Teens and adults can start a table conversation every night using one of these simple conversation tools:

• Foodie Sentiments: If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

• Dream: What is something you want to learn to do and why?

• GET LAUGHING: Would you rather swim in a pool of chocolate pudding or strawberry ice cream?

• Small talk at school: If you could teach any school subject, real or imaginary, what would it be?

• Establish rules for the family table: No electronic devices at the table to distract from the conversation. Distractions can also encourage overeating, leading to unhealthy long-term outcomes.

Bottom line: By making time to share meals with loved ones, we can nourish our bodies and relationships, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Remember: If you don’t want picky kids, try not to be picky. This includes eating your share of vegetables too! Eating together tastes better. Vow to eat out with your family more this fall. Start with this family favorite recipe below that is SOUPer duper!

Tortilla soup

Serves 4-6

All you need

• 1 tablespoon avocado oil

• 1 small yellow onion, cut into cubes

• 2 minced garlic cloves

• 1 kilo vegetable stock (gluten-free)

• 1 (15 ounce) jar red or green enchilada sauce

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 1 tablespoon dry oregano

• 1 cup coconut oil (for frying)

• 1 grain-free cassava flour tortilla

To decorate

• 1 cup chopped chicken (optional)

• 1 avocado, cut into cubes

– Coriander, for garnish

• A lemon wedge for garnish

Everything you do

1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the avocado oil, onion, and garlic until translucent.

2. Add vegetable broth and jar of red or green enchilada sauce.

3. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.

4. Leave the broth to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

5. Heat a shallow frying pan with coconut oil.

6. Cut grain-free cassava flour tortillas into small squares and fry them in small batches until golden and crisp.

7. Drain the crispy tortillas in a pan lined with paper towels.

Serve the broth with shredded chicken, diced avocado, and crispy tortillas. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedge.

Recipe source:

Are you ready to start family meals this fall? Hy-Vee’s team of dietitians is here to help you eat more meals as a family this fall with the Family Meals Challenge. During this free 4-week challenge brought to you by our generous sponsors – Fairlife and the Iowa Meat Industry Council – you will simply track whether you meet the goal of eating 3 or more meals as a family each week! Family looks different for everyone. Your family can include your relatives, friends and neighbors. Our team of Hy-Vee dietitians is here to support you with weekly tips and recipe inspiration to help make family meals easier. The goal of this challenge is to make eating meals together a routine for your family. Complete the challenge anytime between August 28 and November 5, 2023 for a chance to win amazing prizes! Register today to complete the challenge!

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