Because Dinner Time is Family Time

Dream Dinners has found a way to help busy families to put dinner on the table –

Although recent years have shown an increase in family dinners (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, 2004), the statistics remain sobering. When it comes to family mealtimes, evidently, a lot of us say one thing but do another. According to Tufts University, national studies show that more than 80 percent of parents consider eating dinner with their children very important, but less than 50 percent actually sit down together on a daily basis. (Family & Consumer Sciences Hotline, 2004) What’s more, these percentages decrease as children get older. (Gillman et al., 2000) Sports practices, dance lessons, and hanging out with friends take their toll on family mealtime. Add to that a teenager’s increasing independence – physically, emotionally and financially – and you have fewer and fewer family mealtimes at a time when vulnerable teens need them more than ever.

Science is just now validating what many parents of yesteryear knew all along; eating together regularly as a family brings with it many diverse and sometimes surprising benefits. Children, however, seem to benefit the most from family dinners, with improved grades, higher IQs, greater self-esteem, fewer behavioral and eating disorders, less stress, less depression and risk of suicide, and overall better behavior than their peers.

Among the more surprising benefits of family mealtimes are those related to social and academic performance. Children who enjoy regular dinners with their parents tend to have higher academic scores, higher IQs, better vocabularies, nicer manners, higher self-esteem, and fewer problem behaviors like smoking, alcohol and drug use, promiscuity and fighting. They also experience fewer eating disorders, less depression and have a lower risk of suicide.

This holds especially true with teens, who typically experience fewer family dinners as they get older. Just at the time when teens are beginning to be at risk, parents surrender their “power” by decreasing the regularity of family meal times together. Psychologist Wade Horn, who is the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families in the Administration for Children and Families at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, described the practice of a family eating together as “parental office hours.” Dr. Horn said that mealtime is a positive context for caring and sharing. “Good relationships,” he said, “require time and interaction. Regular meals together provide an opportunity for teens to talk with their parents without making a big deal about it.”

Statistics show that a typical mom spends about an hour every day on grocery shopping, meal preparations and cleaning afterwards (American Time Use Survey 2004). However, the reality is that we only have so much time in the evening to deal with kids’ homework, projects, baths and other luxuries such as workout and reading. Many of us can’t afford to spend more than 30 minutes on the kitchen activity on a daily basis but we still want to provide nutritious family dinners. Home meal-solutions industry was born to solve this dilemma. In meal assembly stores, the staff takes care of the time-consuming chores including menu planning, shopping, cutting, washing and clean-up. The guests assemble 12 or more entrees that they serve to their families in the weeks ahead.

This great concept was created by Dream Dinners four years ago by two busy moms, Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna, living near Seattle, WA. Since then, more than a hundred Dream Dinners stores sprang all over the country; many other businesses were inspired to follow suit. As we busy moms celebrate Mother’s Day, let’s think about how we can express our love for our families and children more effectively. It shouldn’t be so hard to create quality time together. Why not start by having family dinners together? Because dinner time is family time.

Herb-Tomato Chicken

Chicken breasts topped with fresh tomato slices, a creamy sauce, and seasoned breading; this is a delicious dish to share at your next potluck dinner.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup canned cream of celery soup

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

6 slices tomato 1/4 inch thick

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons dried parsley

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Spray 1 9 X 13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray

Putting the dinner together:

Place the chicken breasts in the prepared baking dish. Set aside. In a bowl, combine soup, garlic and mustard and stir until well mixed. Spread equal amounts of the sauce on each chicken breast. Top with tomato slices. In a small mixing bowl, combine salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, parsley, and rosemary. Sprinkle equal amounts of the herb mixture evenly over the chicken and tomatoes.


Pre-heat oven to 375. Bake uncovered for 40-50 mins, until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165.


Cover dish with plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil, label, date, and freeze for up to 3 mos. Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking as directed above.

Contributed by Dream Dinners in metropolitan Washington area.  for this month’s menu and more information. 




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here