30 Minutes to Family Meals & Healthy Kids

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There are a lot of reasons you may want to have a sit-down meal with your family. If health isn’t one of those reasons, you can add it to the list, according to new research.

Research presented this week at the Experimental Biology conference found that frequent family meals links to many health benefits to children, including increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods, and vitamins.

And healthful meals can mean healthier weights for kids and adults leading to lower risk for cancer and other chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

Of course, getting the family together and preparing a balanced meal can be a challenge. While I can’t help with scheduling, here are some of my go-to ideas for quick meals (30 minutes or less) that make it just a little easier to get the family around the table.

Chicken, veggie & pasta stir-fry (4 servings)

  • Prepare 6 oz. whole-wheat pasta per package directions
  • Sauté in 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 lb diced, boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh. Remove from pan when cooked through.
  • Sauté in 2 teaspoons olive oil, 3 cups chopped veggies (like bell peppers, spinach, mushroom or yellow squash) until tender crisp.
  • Add chicken and drained pasta to veggies and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese. Add a piece of fruit or a fruit cup topped with vanilla yogurt for dessert.

Veggie Stew over Brown Rice (Serves 4)

  • Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in large pan and sauté 1 cup carrot slices, 1 cup diced bell pepper, 1 cup green beans and 1/3 cup sliced onion. (Use fresh or frozen vegetables)
  • Add 1 (15 oz.) can drained, reduced sodium garbanzo beans and 1 (15 oz.) can no salt added diced tomatoes. Season with Italian herbs to taste. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  • Prepare enough quick cooking or packaged frozen brown rice for 4 servings.

Serve vegetable stew over brown rice and add crusty whole wheat bread to complete the meal.

DIY Meal

Set up a salad buffet with lettuce greens, diced apples or other seasonal fruits, nuts, low-fat cheese, kidney beans, dried cranberries or raisins, chopped vegetables and favorite salad dressings. While family members assemble their salads, prepare omelets or scrambled eggs and whole-wheat toast.

Find more recipes in the AICR Test Kitchen and in our New American Plate brochures. series.

What are your go-to meal ideas?


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

2 thoughts on “30 Minutes to Family Meals & Healthy Kids”

  1. I am surprised that you would recommend the use of so many can food in your recipes. The chemicals that line up the inside of the can are quite bad for the health. It would be better to recommend as much as possible the use of food in glass jars.

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