Parents, you're not alone!

New study shows kids value quality meals too
Courtesy of ARA

As a parent, you realize sharing a family meal is an important way to spend time with your children, but did you know kids also recognize the importance of this activity?  

Interestingly, 82 percent of parents feel closer to their kids and 72 percent of kids feel closer to their parents when families sit down together for a quality meal, according to the recent "Share the Table Survey," commissioned by Barilla, a top Italian food company, and Family Circle magazine.

The survey emphasized the importance of the quality of mealtime for both parents and kids. In fact, parents and kids who share high-quality meals together, regardless of how often they share those meals in some instances, are more likely to be happier and feel they possess specific positive emotional and social attributes.

"This innovative research showed us that kids value the family dinner as much as adults do, and they actually appreciate their parents more when they take the time to share a meal," says Dr. William J. Doherty, professor of family social science and director of the Citizen Professional Center at the University of Minnesota, as well as a contributor to the study. "These findings tell us that something as simple as everyone sitting down together and talking about their day over a good meal can strengthen the bonds between parents and kids."

Parents and kids agree that the key ingredients for a high-quality meal include laughter, relaxation, conversation and being together eating something everyone likes. Survey highlights include:

* Both parents and kids agree that spending time together is a top priority – and both wish they had more time to connect – and sharing family meals is the most important way families can do this.

* Families that regularly share mealtime have parents who feel happier and less stressed, and children who get better grades, develop healthy habits, and feel their parents are relaxed and fun to be around.

* Mealtime togetherness contributes more strongly to kids’ well-being than other common activities that families do together and other activities competing for kids’ time (sports, dance, arts, clubs) and yet family dinners are given away to accommodate those other activities.

"We know how hard it is to always get the whole family together for dinner, and it’s great to see that teens and ‘tweens appreciate family time just as much as moms and dads," says Linda Fears, editor-in-chief of Family Circle. "We always tell our readers that the best way to make the most out of mealtime is to check technology at the door, engage each other, take time to relax and enjoy the food."

Doherty offers some advice for how parents can make sharing a meal a regular, beneficial occurrence in their home:

* Minimize outside activities that interfere with family dinners. Start small, perhaps choosing one night a week for a family meal. Make it special and start adding days from there. If your children let you know that they think family dinners are inconvenient and boring, resist the temptation to cave in.

* Ban TV and other electronic media, except background music, from family dinners. Encourage conversation and laughter to be the focal point.

* Involve children in meal planning and preparation. It’s a great way for parents and kids to interact, and can also help children learn healthy nutrition and eating habits.

The family meal experts at Barilla offer a simple, yet tasty recipe to help families get started on sharing the table. The fact is, dinner doesn’t have to be daunting with plenty of options available for creating a healthy meal for your family.

Recipe: Whole Grain Spaghetti with Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 to 45 minutes
Serves: Four to six people

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 zucchini, sliced with peeler
2 yellow squash, sliced with peeler
14 ounces San Marzano tomatoes, canned
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 leaves fresh basil, cut into strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until it turns slightly yellow. Cook the whole-grain spaghetti for one minute less than the cooking time recommended on the package.

Meanwhile, add the zucchini and yellow squash to the skillet and saute for three to four minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the spaghetti and add it to the skillet. Toss with the sauce. Let the pasta continue to cook in the skillet for one minute. Turn off the heat and toss in the fresh basil. Top with Parmesan cheese before serving.