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Bringing families back to the dinner table

September is national family meals month.
Credit: Honey Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry

Since 2015, September has been recognized as national family meals month. This nationwide event is designed to help families enjoy more home-cooked meals together.

The benefits of enjoying family meals together include: 

  • Higher quality nutrition: Cooking at home allows you to control portions and ingredients used for better health benefits.
  • Kids who eat dinner with their parents at least five times a week are less likely to take drugs or feel depressed than those who do not.
  • Pairing nutritious food with lively conversation shapes family values and enhances a child’s communication skills.
  • Academic: Kids from elementary to high school age who eat meals with their families four or more times per week earn better test scores and are more likely to succeed in school.

How do you get started?

  • Start small: Select 1 to 2 nights a week without additional activities that you can sit down as a family to enjoy a meal.
  • Give everyone a role: Get the kids involved in recipe selection, shopping or even meal prep and cleanup depending upon age.
  • Establish family table rules:
  • Be prompt – gathering at a certain time and sticking to it can establish a schedule and sense of regularity and also allows everyone to enjoy the meal while it is still hot.
  • Wait until everyone is seated before beginning to eat so it truly becomes quality family time.
  • No electronics at the table to distract from conversation. Distractions can also encourage overeating leading to potentially unhealthful long-term results.
  • Let everyone speak – give everyone a voice at the table to encourage enhanced communication skills.
  • Taste the food before adding salt to help reduce sodium content of the meal and promote heart health.

Melissa Jaeger, a HyVee registered dietitian, shared this recipe for honey-cashew chick stir-fry that's a perfect family meal.

All you need:

  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breast tenders
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch, divided
  • ¾ cup no-salt-added chicken broth
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3/4 tbsp less-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp refrigerated ginger paste
  • ¼ tsp sesame oil
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 7 tsp canola oil, divided
  • 12 oz.Short Cuts broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • ¾ cup shredded carrot
  • ¾ cup Short Cuts tricolor pepper strips
  • 2/3 cup whole lightly salted cashews
  • Hot cooked rice
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish

All you do:

1. Pat chicken dry and cut into ¾-inch pieces. Toss chicken with 2 tablespoons cornstarch until coated; set aside.

2. Stir together broth, honey, soy sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, ginger paste, sesame oil and crushed red pepper; set aside.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large nonstick skillet. Stir-fry half of chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until cooked through (165 degrees F). Remove chicken from wok. Repeat with remaining chicken and 2 teaspoons canola oil.

4. Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; stir-fry 1 minute. Add remaining 1 teaspoon canola oil; then add carrot and pepper strips; stir-fry 2 minutes more.

5. Push vegetables to edge of wok. Stir broth mixture and add to center of wok; bring to boil. Stir in chicken and cashews; cook and stir 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions, if desired.

For more recipes, visit www.hy-vee.com.