Celebrating National Family Meals Month
Sep 05

Celebrating National Family Meals Month

By Kelly Regan

September is National Family Meals Month! That means there’s no better time to start working towards more family meals per week. Eating meals together as a family can make a big difference; years of research show that kids who eat with their parents or caregivers at home are more likely to eat more fruits and veggies, drink less soda, have an overall lower obesity rate, have higher self-esteem, a better body image, fewer eating disorders, better grades4… the list goes on! Hard to believe that all of those benefits could come from something so enjoyable.

There are certainly barriers to eating together as a family. Whether it’s not having time to plan or cool the meal, or simply not having the time to sit down in the day, it can be hard to make it work. The good news is that it’s not about being perfect! The goal should be to increase the number of meals you’re having as a family, whether you’re starting from 0 meals a week, or if you’re already eating dinner together most days. Also, it doesn’t have to be dinner! Family meals count no matter the time of day or day of the week. Between breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week, there are 21 different opportunities! Sharing a healthy snack together as a family is great, too.

Need some ideas? Here are 5 days of lunch or dinner recipes which use overlapping, simple ingredients, along with the shopping list you’ll need for all 5 meals!

Monday: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes1

Prep time: 10 min, Cook time: 6 min, Serves: 4
Serving size: Two stuffed sweet potato halves

What you'll need:
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minded
8 cups (lightly packed) spinach, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of hummus
2 tablespoons of feta cheese
¼ cup ground pepper


1. Use a fork to pierce the sweet potatoes in several places.
2. Microwave the sweet potatoes for 3 minutes on each side (about 6 minutes total), until they are tender when pierced with a fork.
3. Let the potatoes cool for a few minutes, then cut in half lengthwise.
4. Scoop out the insides of the potatoes and place in a medium-sized bowl. Set the skins aside.
5. With the back of a fork, mash the potatoes until they are mostly smooth.
6. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
7. Add spinach to the pan and cook until the spinach has wilted (about 1 minute).
8. Add the spinach mixture to the bowl of mashed sweet potatoes, along with the feta cheese, hummus and ground pepper. Stir to combine.
9. Scoop the sweet potato mixture back into the sweet potato skins. Serve.

Nutrition (per serving): calories 233, fat 10.9 g (2 g sat), fiber 5.6 g, sodium 307.1 mg, sugar 9.9g, protein 7.2g

Tuesday: Black Bean Quesadillas2

Prep time: 15 min, Cook time: 15 min Serves: 4
Serving size: One quesadilla

What you'll need:
15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed
2 teaspoons of canola oil
½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup fresh prepared salsa (find in your grocer’s refrigerated section near other dips and spreads)
4 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas, burrito size
1 ripe avocado


1. Combine the cheddar cheese, beans and a ¼ cup of salsa in a medium bowl.
2. Lay the tortillas out flat and spread a ½ cup of filling on half of each tortilla.
3. Fold the tortillas in half, gently press to flatten.
4. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat.
5. Add 2 folded quesadillas to the pan and cook until golden brown, flipping each tortilla once for a total of about 2-4 minutes.
6. Place the tortillas on a plate and cover to keep warm.
7. Repeat above steps with the remaining oil and quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas into slices and serve with avocado and the remaining ¼ cup of salsa.

Nutrition (per serving): calories 375, fat 16 g (4 g sat), fiber 10 g, sodium 608 mg, sugar 6 g, 13 g protein


Wednesday: Veggie Pizza2

Prep time: 20 min, Cook time: 30 min, Serves: 6
Serving size: 1/6 pizza

What you'll need:
1 pound of prepared whole-wheat pizza dough
2 cups of broccoli florets
¼ cup water
½ cup of prepared pesto
1 cup of shredded mozzarella
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about the size of the baking sheet.
2. Transfer dough to large greased baking sheet. Bake until lightly crisped on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. While dough bakes, add water and broccoli to a large skillet and cook over medium heat, covered, for about 3 minutes.
4. Add the arugula to the pan and cook until wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper.
5. Spoon the pesto over the crust and spread evenly. Add the broccoli mixture to the top and then sprinkle with cheese.
6. Bake until crispy and golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Nutrition (per serving): calories 323, fat 17 g fat (4 g sat), fiber 3 g, sodium 512 mg, sugar 2 g, protein 15 g

Thursday: Broccoli, Bean and Cheddar Soup2

Prep time: 20 min, Cook time: 20 min, Serves: 6
Serving size: One cup

What you'll need:
14-ounce can reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup of water
1 pound of broccoli florets, trimmed and chopped
14-ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed (low sodium if possible)
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
¼ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Bring water and broth to a boil in medium saucepan. Add broccoli, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
2. Stir in the beans, salt and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Place half of the mixture into a blender along with half of the shredded cheese and puree. (Use care.) Transfer to a bowl.
4. Puree the remaining broccoli mixture and shredded cheese, and add to the bowl. Serve warm.

Nutrition (per serving): calories 152, fat 7g (4 g sat), fiber 6g, protein 11 g, sodium 588 mg, sugar 2 g

Friday: Roasted Red Pepper, Avocado and Feta Wraps3

Prep time: 5 min, Cook time: 10 min, Serves: 4
Serving size: One wrap

What you'll need:
4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas, burrito size
2 cups of spinach
½ cup of hummus
2 ripe avocados
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil
1 cup of roasted red peppers, (canned or freshly roasted, if canned, make sure to drain)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


1. Place a dollop of hummus in the center of the tortillas, spreading lengthwise. Set aside.
2. Combine avocado and feta in a small bowl, and mash with a fork. Add lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper to bowl and mix.
3. Divide the avocado feta mixture evenly among the four tortillas, spreading it gently over the hummus.
4. Lay the red peppers and a few pieces of spinach lengthwise over the avocado and hummus spread. Carefully fold into wraps and serve!
5. To toast – brush the outside of the tortillas with butter or olive oil and place on a hot grill or pan, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve immediately!

Nutrition (per serving): calories 400, fat 26 g (9 g sat), fiber 9 g, protein 14 g, sodium 405 mg, sugar 4 g



Shopping List

Things you may have on hand:

  • Olive oil      
  • Canola oil
  • Ground black pepper
  • Salt

Canned, jarred goods:

  • 15-ounce can of black beans (low sodium if possible)
  • 14-ounce can of cannellini beans
  • 1 can roasted red bell peppers (low sodium if possible)
  • 1 jar prepared pesto

Fresh produce:

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 bags of spinach
  • 3 avocados
  • 3 heads of broccoli (usually bundled together)
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh basil

Dairy/refrigerated items:

  • Family-sized hummus of your choice
  • Container of crumbled feta cheese
  • Contained of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Large block sharp cheddar cheese (or pre-shredded)
  • Container of freshly prepared salsa or one jar
  • 1 pound of prepared whole-wheat pizza dough

Grains, legumes, pasta:

  • 1 pack of whole wheat tortillas, burrito size

Everything else:

  • 14-ounce can vegetable broth (low sodium if possible)



Sources and Photo Credit:

1, Adapted from “Stuffed Sweet Potato Recipe with Spinach, Hummus & Feta.” Cookin’ Canuck. 6 September 2016.
2. Adapted from “Five Ingredient Vegetarian Recipes.” Eating Well Magazine. September/October 2009. 
3. Adapted from “Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Avocado Feta Sandwich.” Two Peas & Their Pod. 24 July 2013.
4. Fishel, Anne. Family Dinner References. The Family Dinner Project. 9 September 2013.