This is a guest post, written by Kimberly Bennett, a dietetic student with Eastern Michigan University.

Let’s plan a family dinner!  Remember the good old days of Sunday dinners at grandma’s house? This is a great opportunity to return to the simpler times. Call up the brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and even those kiddos that just moved out in August. Plan a big simple Sunday potluck dinner to kick-off fall, or to watch a kick-off! To add a healthy challenge to the meal, ask guests to be sure all items use fresh, minimally processed ingredients. 

Find Your Mojo

Need some healthy motivation to put some dinners on the table, then sit and relax? Research shows that children from a family that eat together are less likely to drink alcohol, smoke or use marijuana; they do better in school and they eat better1.

The standby pot roast and potatoes is great, but old news.  Why not try something new and use a group effort to make it relaxing for everyone? For instance, consider setting up a food bar. Pick a simple food item that tastes great and offer lots of different toppings. This is a great way to please everyone and get them involved. This is also an opportunity to enjoy foods such as sausage or cheese, because these items are portion-controlled. It’s easy:

  • Pick a theme, assign everyone on the list items to bring. You could also send a text with list of possible ingredients
  • Everyone can claim what they want to bring (and reply all if texting) 
  • Final step: Arrive on dinner day with items ready to go (cooked, baked, sautéed, chopped, diced, sliced or shredded)
  • Host or hostess will put all of the ingredients/components out on a table for everyone to be the master of their own dish.

Here are a few food bar ideas:

  • Baked Potato Bar – (Russet, Idaho, or sweet) Try cooking in a slow cooker. Pierce 8 potatoes with knife, wrap in foil. Place in slow cooker, cover, and cook on High for 2 1/2 to 4 hours. Offer toppings of chili, cheese (grated), nacho cheese, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, grilled veggies, corn, diced tomatoes, chives, olives, and jalapeños, butter and sour cream or herbed yogurt


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  • Burrito Bar –  shredded chicken or steak or ground beef, grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms, diced tomatoes, spinach, cheese, lettuce, olives, onions, rice, beans (kidney, black or garbanzo), salsa, cilantro, guacamole
  • Chili Plus Sides/Toppings –  baked potatoes, rice, cheese, diced avocado, onions, chives, chipotle peppers, sour cream, cornbread
  • Pasta Bar – Choose two types of pasta. Offer sauces (Alfredo, red, pesto), grilled chicken, shrimp, sausage, ground meat Italian style, sautéed mushrooms, artichokes, and onions, spinach, roasted red peppers, grilled asparagus, feta, tomatoes, peas, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano  

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As you can see, it’s all interchangeable and the possibilities are endless. After dinner, you can organize a family walk or a touch-football game!  This is how a simple family meal can lead to “The Best Day Ever”. Whatever you choose, make it healthy, fun and cherish the memories made!



1.FMI | Food Marketing Institute | Supporting Research Reports. 2016. Available at: Accessed September 22, 2016.