by Joey Lee
Over the last 30 years, there has been a dramatic shift not only in what we eat, but how we eat. More and more kids come home to an empty house after school and rely mostly on processed snack foods and microwaveables to sustain themselves until their parents arrive home, takeout box in hand. October’s Food Day gives families with a fun, extra incentive to take the first step and get into the family dinner groove.
It’s easy to see why families would want to get into the habit. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found a lower incidence of obesity among kids who ate regular family dinners. And research conducted by the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that children who have regular family dinners eat more nutritious diets, get better grades in school and develop better communication skills. Research shows that the shared meal must be integrated into the family’s lifestyle to help you connect with your kids. So how can the modern family fit family dinners into their routine and reap these important benefits?
The Kids Cook Monday is a new initiative that gives parents and kids an effective, weekly way to keep up family dinners. When Monday is family dinner night, the meal becomes a fun event, ensuring that parents and kids spend quality time together every week, all year round. You can also use this family time to start the school week with interactive nutrition lessons. As your little chefs squeeze oranges, tell them how vitamin C strengthens their immune systems to fight off colds or how the potatoes they’re mashing first grew underground.
Parents can explore cooking with kids even if they’re novice cooks themselves! The Kids Cook Monday recipes come with age group suggestions as well as “parent”, “kid’ and “together” cooking tasks. Use The Kids Cook Monday toolkit (pdf) to get started. You can also share The Kids Cook Monday movement in whatever way works for you: post family dinner stories to your blog every week, hold family dinner recipe contests on your website, start a cooking co-op in your community or swap recipes with other families on Facebook and Twitter.
By sustaining the tradition of family dinners, we are sustaining our health and our relationships with each other. Food activist and author Michael Pollan writes “shared meals are about much more than fueling bodies; they are uniquely human institutions where our species developed language and this thing we call culture.” Make cooking and eating together your first priority on the first evening of each week. The family that cooks together, connects.
Joey Lee is the manager of The Kids Cook Monday initiative, a project of The Monday Campaigns. Joey is a featured cook on the kid’s nutrition gaming website Zis Boom Bah. In her home kitchen, Joey enjoys experimenting with all types of cuisines, which serves her well while she perfects all the recipes featured on MeatlessMonday.com and TheKidsCookMonday.org each week. Joey’s recipes and posts have also been featured on the blogs of other publications, such as Real Simple Magazine, Grandparents.com and Parade Magazine.
Follow KidsCookMonday on twitter.
Like KidsCookMonday on facebook.