In the fast paced society that we live in it can be very difficult to get the family together for a healthy, well balanced meal. This leaves many families left to choose high calorie, fat and sugar options that are commonly found in local convenience stores, take-out joints and fast food restaurants. Taking the time to plan a family meal has shown to have many positive health benefits, especially with children. Studies have shown that children who participate in homemade family meal gatherings are more likely to form healthy eating habits that carry into adulthood compared to those who do not. More specifically, children who do not participate in family meals are more prone to snack on high sugary foods and beverages and less likely to consume fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Family meal time also allows families to reconnect and for parents and children to develop a strong bond which is essential for behavioral development in adolescence.


Remember family meals do not have to be stressful. Here are some tips to plan quick and healthy meals for you and your family.

  • At the beginning of each week look at the calendar to determine the best days you and your family can have a sit down meal and mark them down. Do not worry if this number is only once per week. You can always strive for more family sit downs in the future.
  • Plan the meals you are going to make ahead of time when making your food-shopping list. It’s best to start by looking in your cabinets at what you already have and build from there.
  • Try to keep a supply of nonperishable food items on hand in the kitchen including: brown rice, whole grain pasta, beans, frozen fruits and vegetables, cooking oils, sauces, and seasonings.
  • If you have a busy work week and a lot of family meals scheduled, choose a day where you can chop vegetables, prepare, and freeze your meals. Have extra storage containers on hand. The only work that needs to be done at meal time is to heat up the food.
  • If time allows, involve your children in meal preparation. This allows for extra family bonding time. It has also been shown that the more exposure children have to certain foods like fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to try them.

Here are some websites that can further aid in your family meal planning:


Child Development Institute. Why Your Family Should Eat Together: 2 Critical Reasons. Available at Accessed 30 July 2015.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Family Meals Month. Available at Accessed 30 July 2015.


At MANNA, food safety is a TOP priority because many of our clients have compromised immune systems.  The hot summer months are a great time to update your own food safety knowledge. With many outdoor events and barbecues, we often overlook proper handling food. 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from food poisoning, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. You can prevent food-borne illness by being more cautious and it’s easy! Help keep your family and friends safe and healthy with these simple food safety practices below.

  1. Practice good hygiene and wash your hands before eating, preparing food, or between foods that would cross contaminate such as red meat and fresh vegetables. Always wash hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Marinate your food in the refrigerator to prevent bacteria from growing.   Always reserve a portion of unused marinade to brush on food while it is cooking. Never re-use marinade that was used to flavor raw meat, poultry or fish.
  3. Preheat your grill approximately 20-30 minutes before grilling. For charcoal grills, the coals should be just coated with ash.
  4. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to the proper temperatures.
  5. Food should never sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep hot food hot. Keep cold foods cold by nesting them in bowls of ice or rotating items into the refrigerator/freezer.

Keep these tips in mind always and grill on!

Recipe: Grilled Eggplant with Caramelized Onion and Fennel
To prepare this appetizer indoors, broil the eggplant rounds until browned, and continue the recipe as instructed. White balsamic vinegar offers the sweetness of regular balsamic but won’t discolor the salad. You can use regular balsamic vinegar if white isn’t available.



1/4 teaspoon salt, divided $
1 (1 1/4-pound) eggplant (about 4-inch diameter), peeled Cooking spray $
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided $
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 3/4 cups chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large bulb)
2 cups finely chopped yellow onion $
2 cups trimmed arugula $
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extravirgin olive oil $
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes $
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese $
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme


Prepare grill to medium heat.

Cut eggplant crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices. Lightly coat both sides of eggplant slices with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Place on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 7 minutes on each side or until browned. Set eggplant slices aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fennel and onion; sauté 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Combine remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, arugula, vinegar, and oil in a medium bowl; toss gently to coat. Divide arugula mixture evenly among 8 appetizer plates; top each serving with 1 eggplant slice. Arrange about 1/3 cup fennel mixture on each eggplant slice; top with 2 tablespoons tomatoes and 1 tablespoon cheese. Sprinkle the chopped basil and thyme evenly over cheese.

Recipe via Cooking Light.