How to Start a Family Dinner Tradition

Last Update: May 11, 2020

Welcome to Dining In, a series that takes you into the homes of Thrive Market employees and brand partners to share what cooking in our own kitchens really looks like. Today, we’re introducing you to Pamela Salzman, a certified holistic health counselor and full-time cooking instructor! During a time when connecting with others looks a bit different, she’s sharing why family dinners are important more so than ever, and how we can all make time for our loved ones each week.

What does Dining In look like for you?

Dining in looks like my family and me sitting around our kitchen table with platters of family style food. No phones, no tv, just conversation for 20 minutes or so. Dining in can also mean friends around my dining room table or patio table in the summer. I make easy, colorful food that is healthy and makes everyone feel good. I love spending time with my friends, so I don’t want time-consuming recipes that keep me from the table.

What advice can you give others in a similar scenario?

Dining in and family dinners don’t have to look a certain way or take up a lot of time! But it’s a good habit to get into and one where you are planting the seeds for your kids to grow into healthy eaters and form a healthy relationship with you.

How do you make meal-time feel special?

No bickering allowed at the table! I try to start off the conversation with something positive and keep everyone engaged. I also make a fresh meal that makes the house smell good and the kitchen feel warm and cozy.

What’s your go-to Dining In meal when you don’t feel particularly motivated?

I make a lot of stir-fries or bowls!

How has Thrive Market made Dining In easier?

Thrive Market is my lifesaver. The site carries almost all my favorite pantry staples, cleaning products, dog food, even my facial cleanser. I love that I don’t have to waste time running to multiple markets AND I am saving so much money. Thrive Market definitely helps me cook healthier food more often!

Let’s start with the basics—why are family dinners important?

I grew up with family dinners and always knew they would be an important part of my life when I had a family. It’s the time when I check in with my kids and we can talk without being rushed or distracted. So many meaningful conversations have happened over family dinners. Plus, I am setting an example for my children that cooking healthy food is a priority and family time is important.

How do you make family dinners special?

I always set a nice table and make a fresh meal, even if it’s simple. I also try to start a positive conversation—questions such as, “What’s one funny thing that happened today?” and “What is something you are grateful for today?” are great starters.

What are some tips to keep family dinners consistent?

Start with a night that’s easy for everyone and once that becomes a routine and build on that. I recommend Sundays!

If you’re not physically with your family right now, what are your top tips for planning a virtual family dinner?

We are loving ZOOM meetings for virtual family dinners. It’s easy and as long as everyone knows not to talk at the same time, they’re really fun!

Recipe roundup! What are your go-to dinner recipes that use…

Mostly pantry staples: Stir-fried Soba Noodles, Black Bean Burgers, Cuban Black Refried Beans
Chicken or poultry: Arroz Con Pollo, Grilled Chicken Paillard, Sheet Pan Chicken with Veggies
Beef: Beef sauteed with middle eastern spices, pasta with meat sauce
Veggies: Chopped Grilled Vegetable Salad, Roasted Veggie Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Were or are your kids picky eaters? How have you encouraged them to try new things?

Yes! I used to have two picky eaters. One of my kids is still a wee bit picky but has come a long way! I only made one dinner and always encouraged my kids to have one bite of something new. I also told them if they didn’t like something that their taste buds weren’t grown up yet, but that one day they would be. I also was flexible in serving new things—If they didn’t want salad with dressing, no problem. If they would try a new chicken dish in a corn tortilla or soup with popcorn on top, I was okay with that.

And let’s end with something sweet—what are your favorite family-friendly dessert recipes?

My grain-free chocolate zucchini cake is the first choice! And my vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are a close second. We also really love my quick skillet apple crisp.

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Lily Comba

Lily Comba has never met a baked good she didn't like. When she's not baking, you'll find her writing, taking a Pilates class, or collaborating with the editorial and social team as a Senior Content Writer at Thrive Market.

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