Spending moments together with loved ones carries obvious benefits like time to catch up and opportunities to bond, but sharing meals actually provides definitive value for families. With restricted social interactions and confinement at home due to COVID-19, many families are facing meal challenges that have shifted from juggling busy schedules to seeking new ways to mix up the traditional menu or using digital solutions to reconnect at a virtual table.

A study published in the “Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior” funded by the FMI Foundation shows that more frequent family meals are associated with better dietary and family functioning outcomes. The results build on years of previous research studies to punctuate the creation of the Family Meals Movement, which encourages Americans to pledge to share one more family breakfast, lunch or dinner at home per week.

Consider these notable findings from the study:

• Family meals improve fruit and vegetable consumption. Studies show a positive relationship between family meal frequency and fruit and vegetable intake when examined separately, but also when fruit and vegetable intake are combined.

• Family meals improve family dynamics. Nearly all the studies included in the systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrated a positive relationship between family meal frequency and measures of family functioning. Family functioning is defined as family connectedness, communication, expressiveness and problem-solving.

“There are thousands of individual studies that examine the impact of family meals on nutrition and family behavior, but this meta-analysis looks at the relationship between family meal frequency and family functioning outcomes,” said David Fikes, executive director of the FMI Foundation. “We can confirm that family meals are a valuable contributor of improved nutrition and family dynamics.”

Find tips, recipes and ways to increase your family meal frequency at familymealsmovement.org.

GERMAN FRUIT TART

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon half-and-half or cream

1/8 teaspoon almond extract or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced

Cornstarch

Sliced strawberries, kiwi and banana

Fresh blueberries

2 teaspoons turbinado or powdered sugar (optional)

To make crust, beat together flours, sugar, egg, half-and-half and almond extract. Add butter slices and mix together until sticky ball of dough forms. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.

On heavily floured surface, knead dough a few times and roll out to fit greased 10-inch tart pan. Carefully spread dough into tart pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tart starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

Dust crust with cornstarch to help fruit stick to crust. Arrange strawberries, kiwi, banana and blueberries on top of crust; sprinkle with sugar, if desired.

HAWAIIAN CHICKEN PIZZA

1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

1 ready-made pizza crust or whole wheat pizza crust

1 cup tomato sauce

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple or canned pineapple tidbits

In medium bowl, combine rotisserie chicken and barbecue sauce.

Place pizza crust on a pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray and evenly spread tomato sauce over crust. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Top evenly with rotisserie chicken mixture and pineapple.

Bake at 375 degrees until crust is crisp and browned around edges, about 10 minutes. Let pizza cool 10 minutes before cutting into 8 slices.

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