Gathering Around the Table

— Written By and last updated by

Life as we knew it has changed over the past several months with COVID-19 on the rise. We have had schools closed, sporting events canceled, favorite restaurants closed, and we are now confined to the comfort of our homes. Now more than ever family dinners are important, especially for our children. Family dinners can be defined as coming together to eat and enjoy each other’s company. Did you know that having family dinners can improve your family dynamic? Children gain significant benefits from family dinners. Children feel a sense of love and belonging when they are surrounded by people they love and can communicate more freely. Academics have also been shown to improve by having this short amount of time with family. Family mealtime is also a good opportunity to talk about essential life skills and the importance of good nutrition.

Planning dinners as a family can be fun as well. You can set up theme nights, assign a certain family member a specific night  to plan what’s for dinner, and assign helpers in the kitchen. In the 4-H Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) we teach our participants food safety in the kitchen. Participants learn the “core four” of kitchen safety: cook, clean, chill, and separate. Families can also use this as an opportunity to cook healthier meals. Farmers markets are a great place to get fresh, local fruits, vegetables, jams, and sometimes local meats and eggs. Planning meals and shopping for sales will help save money on your grocery bill.

After dinner enjoy some family time with a walk in your neighborhood or fun physical family activity. Did you know that children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day? One of the more popular activities we do in EFNEP is exercise sticks. Each popsicle stick has a different exercise move on it such as jumping jacks, sit-ups, squats, and arm rolls to name a few. The child can pick one a day and do multiple sets, or do a whole workout routine by choosing multiple sticks and doing each activity for a set amount of time.

Here is a great, quick recipe that incorporates multiple food groups and is sure to please everyone:

Chicken Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • Non-stick vegetable cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup canned chopped green chili peppers (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (other cheeses are acceptable), shredded; divide into fourths
  • 4 (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

Directions

  1. Preheat electric skillet to 350°F.
  2. Sauté onions until tender.
  3. Mix chicken, salsa, onions, and green chili peppers (optional).
  4. Place 1/4 chicken mixture on half of a tortilla and top with 1/4 cheese; fold tortilla over mixture and seal edges.
  5. Place in skillet sprayed with non-stick vegetable cooking spray.
  6. Brown on one side at medium heat for approximately 3 – 4 minutes.
  7. Turn tortilla over and brown other side.
  8. Cut each folded tortilla into 3 wedges

For more information, contact Joanna Rogers, Youth Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant, by email at joanna_rogers@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at //robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University are collectively committed to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.