Although the convenience of the drive-thru window may be appealing on your way home from picking up the kids instead of planning for a family dinner, beware!
Fast food and other convenience options are generally full of bad-for-you saturated fats and sugar and low in the nutrients you and your family need to keep your energy up and your brains engaged.
Unfortunately, children in our country are not getting the nutrition they need. Recent surveys tell us that approximately 40% of teens consume fruits and vegetables less than once per day and that on average, teens get about 17% of their daily caloric intake from fast food. This is particularly troubling, as 12.7 million children ages two to 19 in the US are obese.
Want to improve your family’s diet? Family meals are a fun way to do this!
A bonus is that you get to spend some much-needed quality time with your family. Research shows us that children in families that eat meals together without distractions, such as the television or smartphones, are less likely to be obese. When it comes to simple, healthy meals that appeal to everyone in the family, homemade pizzas are always a winner.
In fact, not only will everyone love this dish, everyone can participate and enjoy some family time. Creating individual homemade pizzas is a great opportunity for everyone to showcase their creativity and personality!
You can provide toppings based on what your family likes; just be sure you have a variety of veggies—the more colors, the better! Include one or two new toppings (perhaps olives or chopped fresh basil), as well as one or two well-known and accepted toppings, such as diced tomatoes, spinach or bell peppers. This will encourage the adventurous eaters to try new things, and the cautious and picky eaters to not feel overwhelmed.
Encourage your kids to try new toppings on a small portion of their pizza, so if they don’t like it, they haven’t “ruined” their pizza. Even if your kids don’t try all the veggies the first time, keep offering them. Research has shown that the more we expose (read: by offering, not forcing) children to foods they don’t like, the more likely they are to like and eat them over time.
Check out this delicious recipe for Rainbow Veggie Pizza to get started.
Timesaver tip: Buy whole grain pre-made dough at the grocery store or make the dough and prep the veggies the night before. This way, you can simply enjoy making the pizzas during the family meal night.
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1/3 cup broccolini
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 large zucchini, thinly sliced
- red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/2-1 cup pizza sauce
- Pre-made pizza dough or homemade
- olive oil
- Fresh Parmesan for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Chop all of your veggies and place in separate bowls to keep organized.
- Brush the pizza dough with a little olive oil (1-2 Tbsp). Then, using a ladle swirl the pizza sauce around the dough right up until you reach the edges of the pizza. Then sprinkle with cheese.
- Next, carefully arrange your veggies on the pizza. I started with a small amount of onion in the middle, then made rings around the with the remaining veggies. Order: onion, red bell, orange bell, yellow bell, zucchini topped with broccolini, and layered the perimeter of the pizza with the halved tomatoes.
- Cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy with fresh Parmesan on top!
For more pizza recipes, download this free e-cookbook from Meatless Monday. For more free recipes, e-cookbooks and other downloads to make every Monday family dinner night check out TheKidsCookMonday.org.
Ready to make family dinner night a regular thing?
Here are some suggestions:
- Start small: With tight schedules, it may be challenging to have family meals on a daily basis, so start with one night per week, ideally Monday. Why Monday? Because studies show that Monday is the day people are receptive to adopting healthy new habits. A nonprofit initiative called Kids Cook Monday encourages families to set aside the first night of every week for cooking and eating together as a family. When kids pitch in making meals, they are empowered to consider the portions, the vitamins and the nutrients of what they’re eating.
- Time matters: Currently, the average dinnertime lasts approximately 12 minutes—not enough time! Try to set aside at least 30 minutes for family dinner night.
- Turn off electronics and other distractions: One of the major reasons to have family mealtime is socialization. Power off your electronics and require that everyone do the same.
- Be patient: Not everyone may be as excited about family mealtime as you are. There may be complaining and whining at first, but over time, this will become a habit—and one that everyone is likely going to look forward to in the future.
- Be a good role model: Remember, your kids learn from your eating behaviors. Children of parents who eat a variety of fruits and vegetables are less likely to be picky eaters, and more likely to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.