NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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A Great New Food Trend

A Great New Food Trend


            Americans are eating at home more often! More and more people are preparing and eating more of their meals at home.  Over recent years, home cooked meals have slowly been replacing meals on the run, fast food or take-out foods. The not too distant past downtown in the economy was one of the reasons people were eating out less but there are a number of other compelling reasons to eat at home.

Preparing and eating meals at home is an important step toward eating healthy.  Too often when we eat out we eat larger portion sizes; more calories, fat, and sugar; fewer fruits and vegetables; fewer whole grains; and fewer low-fat dairy products.  Quick and simply prepared foods made at home could help you get healthier, lighter, and provide you with more cash to spend on other things.  Home prepared foods are almost always lower in fat, calories and sodium.  The person who prepares meals at home has control of how the food is made, what goes into it, and most importantly, how much is served

Another major benefit of eating at home:  more family time together and the chance to teach your children healthy eating habits.  Families who eat on the run all of the time lose out on quality time to communicate with one another about school, work or the day’s events.  Eating meals together as a family is an opportunity to set a positive example and educate your children about healthy eating.

Meals you prepare and eat at home don’t have to be fancy or gourmet, and they don’t have to take a lot of time. Preparing a simple meal at home takes about as much time as driving to a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza.


Begin with a Plan

  • The first and most important step is planning. Start by keeping a list of the things your family likes to eat. This list can help you as you plan for each week. If you try a new recipe that everyone likes, don’t forget to add it to the list. Keep the master list taped inside the kitchen cupboard.
  • The number one reason people say they can’t eat healthy is lack of time. If you plan meals, you will actually save time and money in the long run. By planning ahead, you will have the things on hand you need to fix quick, easy, healthy meals for you and your family ─ and it won't take any more time than going to the drive-thru.
  • Set aside 30 minutes to plan for the next week.
  • Make a list of the main dish and the side dishes that you will serve for each day of the week. Select recipes that have few ingredients and that use quick cooking techniques.
  • Post the menu on the refrigerator.
  • Get input from your family members. Use your list of everyone’s favorite foods, including main dishes, salads, vegetables, fruits, and desserts.
  • Look in cookbooks, newspapers, Web sites, or magazines for quick main dish and side dish ideas. Add them to the list. File recipes in a file, box, or loose-leaf notebook.


  • Shop regularly, whether once a week or once a month. This saves time, gas, and money.
  • In-season fruits and vegetables are less expensive and taste better.
  • Visit local farmer’s markets or farm stands for lower prices and better quality.
  • Stick to the list. You are less likely to overspend and less likely to forget ingredients you may need for your week’s menus.
  • Don’t shop hungry. Eat a snack, or go shopping after eating a meal.
  • Get the kids involved by letting them choose a new fruit or vegetable that they’d like to try or an old favorite. Kids who get to help pick out foods and help fix them are more likely to try them.


  • Wash and prepare fruits and vegetables in advance.
  • Make extra of a main dish for another meal.
  • Add a favorite canned or frozen fruit or vegetable to any main meal.
  • Check your meal plan each evening, and take out frozen meats the night before. Place them in a dish in the refrigerator to thaw safely for the next day’s dinner.
  • Get the kids involved. Fixing meals can be fun for the whole family. Children are more likely to try new foods if they help get them to the table. Safety comes first. Encourage good hand-washing.


  • Eat together: All families are busy. Make eating together a family priority. Mealtime is a great opportunity for parents and kids to be together. Adults are important role models for kids and can influence foods they taste and learn to eat. Remember that kids often take more time to eat than adults do. Take your time through dinner, and enjoy the extra few minutes sitting at the table before cleaning up.
  • Turn off the TV: Turn off the television, radio, cell phone, and beeper so everyone can focus on the conversation without distraction. Let the answering machine pick up calls, or turn off the phone ringer to avoid dinner interruptions.
  • Share events of the day: Ask each person at the table to talk about a fun activity or something good that happened that day. It is a wonderful time to catch up on special school events or achievements of the kids in your family. You can also plan upcoming family activities (maybe going for a walk after dinner).

    For a quick family meal, try Spicy Chicken Chili.


    Spicy Chicken Chili

                1 # boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

    2 C. chopped tomatoes or substitute canned chopped tomatoes

    ¼ C. chopped white onion

    1 (15 oz.) can spicy chili beans

    ½ C. shredded cheddar cheese


    Spray a Dutch oven or other large kettle with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Brown chicken for three to five minutes, stirring frequently until lightly browned.  Stir in tomatoes, onion and beans and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered for eight to ten minutes, stirring frequently until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 65 degrees F. Sprinkle with cheese.

    Makes four servings. Per serving 240 calories, 4 g fat, 28 g protein.

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