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Dine in During the Holidays

family sitting around dinner table during holidays eating a meal
Not only can you save money by eating at home, research has shown that families who eat together are happier and healthier.


Do you want to save money this holiday season? Most of us would answer yes! One easy way to do that is to commit to eating more meals at home. Not only can you save money by preparing meals for your family at home, but you may be helping to improve their overall health.

According to research from Cornell University, conducted by Musick and Meier, children who eat at home on a regular basis may be 35% less likely to have unhealthy eating behaviors, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight. Not only does eating meals at home influence nutrition, but it may play a role in other areas of health. In this study, results showed that people who eat family dinners together tend to have lower levels of depression. Sharing time with the family has significant effects on child mental health, substance use, and delinquency and results in better students. This may be due to families spending quality time together and not necessarily the type of food being served.

While research on family meals is ongoing and more research needs to be done, evidence to date suggests that family meals do provide many benefits for children and youth. Here are some ways to improve family mealtime:

  • Set a goal to have regular family meals at least three times per week, if possible. This may not be possible for all families. However, try to find some time during the week to sit down together and enjoy a meal. It may be breakfast or an evening snack. The goal is to spend some quality time together as a family.
  • Remember the benefits of consistent family mealtimes. One of the findings about this study is that the routine of family meals can generate feelings of closeness and comfort. Even during the holidays, when things are so hectic and disorganized, take comfort in the fact that the simple act of regular mealtimes may be providing your child with stability.
  • The quality of family meals is just as important as quantity. Mealtimes give family members, including children, the opportunity to communicate; so, if possible, turn off the TV and ban cell phones. Ask questions during mealtime. How was your day? What did you learn? What made the day great or not so great?

The holidays are hectic! Eating out with the family can be a “special treat”. However, there are some very valid reasons for eating at home.

If you want to improve cooking skills or would like information related to healthy eating following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, contact the Miller County Extension Office at 870-779-3609 or email

Do you have any turkey or chicken left over at your house? Hopefully, you have put it in the freezer to use for future meals. Cooked turkey can be used in place of cooked chicken in most recipes. Just find your favorite casserole, soup or main dish recipe that calls for chicken and substitute cooked turkey instead. This recipe is great, easy to prepare is nutritious!

Southwestern Turkey Soup

2/3 cup low-sodium beef broth

1 can (12 ounces) no-salt tomato paste

1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (11 ounces) Mexican-style corn, drained

1 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey

3 green onions, sliced

2 to 3 Tablespoons chili powder

1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies

1 2/3 cups water

In a large saucepan, combine beef broth and tomato paste. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 225 calories, 32 g Carbohydrates, 631 mg Sodium, 20 g Protein, 3 g Fat


Varonica Kennedy is a County Extension Agent – Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service in Miller County. She can be reached by email:  


By Varonica Kennedy
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Varonica Kennedy
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
1007 Jefferson Avenue
(870) 779-3609

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