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Family Meals Offer More than Food

Healthy Together

Kids who eat with a parent or caregiver eat more vegetables, fruit and dairy and have a lower risk of being overweight.

Kids who eat with a parent or caregiver eat more vegetables, fruit and dairy and have a lower risk of being overweight.

Resources for Groceries & Meals

If you’re concerned about putting food on the table, the resources below may help:

  • Where to find Free Food in Alberta: This online AHS tool lets you search for programs and contacts for food banks and hampers as well as free meals in communities across the province. We recommend calling ahead during the COVID-19 outbreak.

A family meal nourishes both body and soul.

When your family sits down together for a meal, your kids can build important skills. Everyone tends to eat healthier and be more connected.

You can make mealtime fun and engaging for the whole family. That’s especially important during COVID-19. Research shows family meals also help:

“Mealtime can be when we reconnect,” says Theresa Riege with Alberta Health Services’ Nutrition Services. “They’re a time to relax, recharge, laugh, tell stories and reflect on the day. Mealtimes also give us a sense of who we are as a family.

Mealtimes, from chopping carrots to putting away dishes, help young children learn to talk more, practise how to be with others and learn etiquette. Meals also help kids, including teenagers, develop a sense of belonging and build a positive self-image.

As well, food is an easy way to share cultural roots. You can introduce different ingredients and dishes and talk about where they came from and their cultural meaning.

Meals can be a time to put away conflicts and concerns and express gratitude for what you have. A positive focus helps kids build their vocabulary.

Plan Together

A meal plan helps make family meals happen, as does keeping weekday meals simple. When you include your kids in planning, they take a greater interest in meals. And you can guide them to healthy choices. See our downloadable Weekly Menu Planner.

Planning is vital right now to cut down on grocery-store visits. You can also plan to cook enough for two or three meals. Be inventive: tonight’s leftover roast chicken can be tomorrow’s taco or frittata filling.

For simple meals, you can mix and match the ideas on our Quick and Easy Meals resource.

Do It Together

Make meals enjoyable by making them with your family. All but the youngest children can help lay out the cutlery, fold napkins and toss a salad.

Kids who help out with meals learn more about food, and they’re more likely to eat what they’ve helped prepare. Teaching your kids to cook gives them practical life skills and helps them appreciated what it takes to make meals. It’s great knowledge for them to have when they leave home.

Unplug

Meals are a good time to unplug from phones, screens and other distractions. It’s a way to encourage everyone to join in the conversation.

Worth the Effort

Family meals do take time and effort. And they’re worth it.

They bring your family together. And food is most enjoyable when shared with loved ones. Plus, by simply eating together, your family’s physical and psychological well-being benefits.

Do you have a food question you wanted answered? Sent it to us at healthy.together@ahs.ca.


Recipes

Creamy Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

Creamy butternut squash & apple soup

Squash and apples are a classic fall pairing. But this smooth, flavourful soup is equally perfect for chilly spring days and nights.

Ingredients

2 tsp (10 ml) canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tart medium apple peeled and chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) dried sage or curry powder
4 cups (1 l) low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup (250 ml) apple cider (optional)
1/4 cup (60 ml) low-fat plain yogurt or sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Sage leaves, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté onion for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in apple and dried sage or curry powder and sauté for another minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer; reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes, until squash is very soft. Remove from heat and puree with a hand-held immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth. Serve hot, drizzled with yogurt or sour cream. Serves 4 to 6.

Apple & Herb Stuffed Turkey Breast

Apple & herb stuffed turkey breast

This simple stuffed breast makes a quick and comforting family meal. As a bonus, it takes a fraction of the time it takes to cook a whole turkey, leaving more time to share with your family.

Ingredients

1 tsp. (5 ml) canola oil, plus extra for cooking
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 tsp. (5 ml) dried sage or oregano, or 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) chopped fresh
2 slices whole grain bread, finely torn or processed into rough crumbs
1 skinless, boneless turkey breast

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400º F (200º C). Heat the oil to medium-high and sauté shallot and celery for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft. Add the apple and herbs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the apple releases juice and softens. Add bread and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Place turkey on a cutting board and slice through breast crosswise, leaving one side uncut. Open like a book and place between two pieces of parchment paper. Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound to an even thickness. Spread stuffing inside turkey and roll it up. (Bake any extra stuffing in a small ramekin alongside the turkey.) Using kitchen twine, tie turkey a few times to keep it rolled.

Place on an oiled or a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165º F (75º C). Remove from oven and sear in heated pan to add colour. Let stand for a few minutes before slicing. Serves 4 to 6.

Crunchy ‘n Colourful Coleslaw

Crunchy and colourful coleslaw

This simple stuffed breast makes a quick and comforting family meal. As a bonus, it takes a fraction of the time it takes to cook a whole turkey, leaving more time to share with your family.

Ingredients

1/4 small green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 small purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled, thinly julienned or grated
1 medium beet, peeled, thinly julienned or grated
1 apple, thinly julienned or grated
1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1/4 cup (60 ml) green pumpkin seeds or unsalted sunflower seeds

Dressing

1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) grainy mustard
2 tsp (10 ml) honey

Preparation

Layer or toss together salad ingredients. To make the dressing, whisk together oil, lemon juice, mustard and honey and drizzle over the slaw; toss to coat and serve, or refrigerate until serving time. Serves 6 to 8.

More Recipes from AHS

Squash and apples are a classic fall pairing. But this smooth, flavourful soup is equally perfect for chilly spring days and nights.