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Nutrition and You!

Is Cooking Dinner Making a Comeback?

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This is the last part of a three part, Back-To-School series, focusing on the benefits and strategies for eating a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner for busy folks and families. This week focuses on cooking dinner for time-impaired.

Can the old-fashioned, home-made family dinners pave the way to improving long-term, healthy food choices? A new study suggests that it can, especially if you are feeding children.

A study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior suggests that the amount of time parents spend on food preparation at home (code for preparing healthier meals) may influence their children’s food intake decisions when the kiddies are away from home.

In this study at Pennsylvania State University, over 60 children ages 4 to 6 were given access to an unlimited variety of chicken nuggets, potato chips, fruit punch, chocolate chip cookies, milk, tomatoes, grapes, and broccoli, without adult supervision. Simultaneously, the parents completed questionnaires addressing various topics including cooking habits.

Those children whose parents reported spending more time on food preparation at home chose more of the healthier foods than the children whose parents reported less food preparation time. “It’s encouraging to see that parents can possibly affect the quality of their children’s food choices outside the home by spending more time cooking,” claimed Catherine Shehan, the lead author of the study.

If you are overwhelmed and can’t fathom the thought of planning and preparing a healthy dinner nightly, here are some recipes websites, apps, and delivery services that can help you get a quick and healthy dinner on the table during the week:

Free Recipe Websites:

The Million Hearts initiative is an online resource that marries the nutritional, scientific rigor of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) with the expertise of EatingWell Magazine to provide delicious, nutritious, tested recipes.

Kids Eatright provides family-friendly recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. They even have a section entitled, “Five Quick and Healthy Meals Without Using The Stove” for those who are truly pressed for time.

Affordable Apps:

SparkRecipes offers a free app that is linked to the “world’s largest healthy recipes website” serving up over 450,000 recipes. The app allows you to search by not only preparation time but also ethnic cuisine and course.

Meal Makeovers app was developed by two registered dietitians with a passion for feeding families with a super healthy diet. Meal Makeovers features healthier versions of classic recipes families love.

The Cooking Light Quick and Healthy Menu Maker app provides more than 300 recipes and lets users design delicious, quick menus in an interactive way. You can swipe through the thousands of gorgeous photos of chicken, beef, pork, fish, and vegetarian entrées and then add two sides plus one dessert to make healthy and complete dinners.

Delivery Meal Services:

If planning, buying, and prepping fresh meals during the busy workweek is still overwhelming to you, Plated.com, BlueApron, and HelloFresh may be for you. The common denominator among these three online meal delivery services is that they will deliver to your doorstep a chilled, recyclable box of fresh dinner ingredients, along with a corresponding visually appealing recipe card, so that you can assemble and cook dinner in about 30 minutes. Shipping is free. It’s like getting Rachel Ray delivered to your doorstep in a chilled box.

During the month of September, Plated.com is partnering with Real Simple magazine for a back-to-school kickoff. During the month, you can order meals at a discount, which were designed by and illustrated in the magazine. Here's a tip: When placing your order online, use the code RSPLATED for the discount.

Happy cooking!

Be well, Joan

Twitter: @JoanSalgeBlake

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