As old-fashioned as it sounds, dinners prepared and shared by the whole family can be precious. They can strengthen bonds of love and respect even in today’s high-tech, rushed and chaotic world. And that’s a real gift.
Meal-sharing teaches kids—and parents!—a lot about good nutrition, too. Allowing children to help prepare fresh meals teaches them skills they’ll need—and use—for the rest of their lives. They’ll also learn the value of planning ahead, how to cooperate with others, creativity, and how to laugh at mistakes.
And it’s not that hard to do. Once you get everyone’s schedules coordinated, be consistent and keep the meals simple. A good, nutritious, healthy diet is one that’s packed with fresh vegetables and fruits; protein-rich nuts, beans, and legumes; whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, and brown rice; low-fat milk and other dairy foods; healthy fats like olive or canola oil; and lean meats, chicken, or fish. Save desserts and sugary snacks and beverages for special occasions and treats.
Here’s a tasty recipe to get you started.
To make this easy meal you’ll need:
- a package of whole grain spaghetti
- a pound of ground meat (any type)
- five or six plum tomatoes
- four cloves minced or crushed fresh garlic
- a little extra-virgin olive oil
- a pinch of sugar, some Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste
First, cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package. Meanwhile, wash and chop the tomatoes into large chunks and mince or crush the garlic cloves. Pour a dollop of olive oil (about the size of a quarter) into a large, non-stick skillet and set the heat under it at medium-high. When the oil’s hot, break up the ground meat and sauté thoroughly, then drain any excess fat from the meat in a colander. Set it aside. Add a little more oil to the skillet and heat it, then sauté the garlic for two minutes. Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning to taste, and sugar. Lower the heat to medium and cook for ten minutes or so, breaking the tomato chunks up and stirring as they release their juices. Mix the meat into the sauce and continue cooking for another five minutes or until it’s hot, then add the salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the cooked spaghetti and serve. Makes about four servings.
This simple recipe is very versatile. Be creative! You can try different seasonings, diced onions, sliced carrots, broccoli, chopped zucchini, a big handful of fresh spinach, sliced, fresh mushrooms, green beans, or any other vegetable that sounds good to you. And, if you want to have a meatless meal, leave the meat out entirely and add canned, rinsed white kidney or other beans of your choice. This sauce is also excellent over brown rice, quinoa, or other cooked grains. Served with a fresh salad, you have a quick, healthy meal the whole family can enjoy.
Try to use as little fat as possible when you cook. Choose healthy cooking methods, like broiling, baking, roasting, or grilling meats instead of frying. Steaming veggies preserves their vitamins and minerals. Roasting roughly chopped vegetables, brushed with just a little olive oil, is also a delicious, easy way to prepare them.
Guest post: Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.