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Many people know that breakfast is an important meal, but you may be surprised to learn the importance of dinner as well, particularly for families. Dinner provides a chance for families to bond and catch up on the day’s events, and it allows children to learn about cooking and trying new food.  Research also shows that children who eat dinner with their families more frequently ate more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fries, and also achieved a better report card than children who eat dinner with their families less frequently.

However, many families often have busy schedules, which can make it difficult to find the time to cook healthy meals and eat together. Below are some tips and meal ideas to help your busy family eat a healthy dinner together every night.

Plan ahead: One of the best ways to ensure a healthy meal is to plan it out ahead of time. When people are short on time, exhausted from a long day, or overly hungry, they often reach for food that cooks quickly with little effort. Unfortunately, these quick and easy foods are often frozen convenience foods that are high in sodium, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure.

A good way to plan dinners ahead is to take time during the weekend to write down what meals you think you will eat that week. Meal planning is something that children can help with, and is great way for kids to express their creativity with meal ideas. Encourage children to plan a vegetable with every meal.

Make enough for leftovers: When planning your week of meals, keep in mind recipes that make enough to have leftovers. If you make a large batch of food, you can freeze the leftovers to quickly reheat on another night. Crockpots and slow cookers are a great way to make a large and easily freezable meal. Crockpots can be used to cook soups, stews, chili, and even pasta dishes such as macaroni and cheese.