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Involving the Family in Meal Planning

Do you find your family meals follow the same routine day after day? The following tips may help you get your family involved in meal planning.

Nashville, Ark. – Sometimes we get in a routine. We get up each morning, get dressed, get the children dressed, drop the children off at school, go to work, pick up the children, go home, fix supper, cleanup, get ready for the next day, go to bed and repeat it again tomorrow. Do you ever find your family meals follow the same routine too? If so, maybe it is time to revamp your meal planning. Why not involve the whole family? Sure it takes a little extra time, but the rewards are well worth it. And, if everyone is involved in planning the meals, they are more likely to eat what is served. This includes your children too!

            Not only will you be serving some foods the whole family enjoys, planning meals will help assure your family is getting a good balance of nutrition. Knowing what you will serve, making a shopping list and sticking to it, will help you save money on groceries. Here are some tips for involving the whole family in meal planning.

            Start with a written plan. There are several free worksheets available for you to download online or you can pick up one at the Howard County Extension Service. Be sure your plan follows the guidelines of MyPlate and divides the foods into the food groups. With this plan, you will know if you need to add more fruits and vegetables or whole grains to diet. As you plan, have your children tell you which foods belong in which food group. If you see your plan has too much of one food group, adjust.

            Make a list of options. If you have younger children, make a list of options based on what you have on hand and items you can use during the week. For example, you may have spaghetti noodles on hand. Offer to prepare spaghetti and meatballs with a side dish. Allow your children to have choices, but don’t eliminate vegetables from your plan. You might say, “Would you prefer broccoli or carrots with spaghetti?”

            Have a family night. If planning a week’s worth of meals with your family sounds too overwhelming, choose one night they plan. Set down some rules beforehand; such as, you must choose at least three foods from three different food groups. Don’t worry about choosing at least one food from each of the five food groups for every meal. The idea is to look at the total food consumed during the day and plan to meet the recommended servings for the day. This includes 2-3 protein, 3-5 vegetables, 2-4 fruits, 3 dairy, and 6 grain foods. If you need help determining what makes a healthy plate visit or visit our office for a free copy.

            Finally, do involve your family in grocery shopping and preparing the meals you have planned. Young children can help out in the kitchen in several ways. Even young children can wash fruits and vegetables, tear lettuce for salads, set the table and help with clean-up by taking their plates to the sink.

            Take the time to introduce your children to these all important life skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. It’s also a great way to strengthen that parent-child bond. Allow your children to help, try new foods, and exercise their creativity. It will certainly build memories you will cherish for years to come.

            If you would like more information about planning healthy meals or for one of the resources mentioned, feel free to call the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

            Sarah Lamb, a member of Show Stoppers 4-H Club, prepared this recipe for the Dairy Foods Contest held recently.

Cheese Manicotti

1 box cooked manicotti shells

2 c. pasta sauce

1 (15-oz.) container ricotta cheese

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

½ c. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

2 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated

            Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil manicotti and set aside. Mix ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour 1 cup of pasta sauce into bottom of 9x13-in. baking dish. Fill manicotti shells with filling using a spoon or pastry bag. Place in dish on top of sauce. Pour remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over sauce. Cover and bake 30-35 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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