Family meals are beneficial for so many reasons. People who prepare meals at home tend to consume significantly more fruits and vegetables, and less sugar and fat. People who enjoy meals at home with others, sitting together and conversing, also have reduced stress and higher life satisfaction. The more frequently families with children have meals together, the more likely the children are to eat a high-quality diet, and the less likely to be overweight or obese. There are also other benefits: these children tend to have higher self-esteem and better academic performance, as well as lower risk of engaging in risky behaviors (like drug use) or developing an eating disorder.
Family meals without distraction
All those benefits go out the window if dinner is eaten in front of the television or other devices. This makes sense if we think about why the family meal has such powerful positive effects: it’s about closeness and connection. Sitting down to eat together is often the only time families can reconnect and communicate. Given our busy, technology-driven lives, the family meal is a rare (and critical) opportunity to unplug and check in. What’s even better is getting the kids involved in making dinner, which is also significantly associated with their eating a higher-quality diet.
One of my favorite family meals: Make-your-own soft tacos
The kids can get involved in preparing this simple and healthy meal, which is incredibly rich in protein and fiber, as well as calcium, iron, and potassium. Beans provide plenty of heart-healthy fiber, protein, and are associated with a lower risk of diabetes. Corn and masa (the tortilla flour made from corn) are considered whole grains and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Avocados and olives provide heart-healthy fats, and the veggies are risk in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. All these easy-to-find ingredients, plus healthy veggies, the option of dairy, and protein from the pumpkin seeds, make this nutritious and fun to prepare with the family — and everyone will love that they can build their own taco!
Make-Your-Own Soft Tacos
This recipe will serve six people if some of those people are young children. For hungry teens and adults, expect it to feed three or four.
- 1 15-ounce can of unsalted black beans
- 1 can corn niblets, unsalted
- 2 avocados
- 1 red bell pepper sliced thin
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup of salsa (fresh or jarred)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
- 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), unsalted (optional)
- 1/2 cup green olives (optional)
- 8-12 corn tortillas (made without lard)
- Dice the avocado and gently mix with the lemon juice.
- Heat the beans in the microwave or the stovetop; stir.
- Heat the tortillas (I wrap them in a clean towel and zap them in the microwave on high for 30 seconds).
- Set out all ingredients on the counter (or table) and let everyone put together their own healthy tacos.