SOURCE: Stouffer's

September 27, 2010 08:00 ET

Dinners Make a Difference

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - September 27, 2010) -  (Family Features) Whether you're sitting down to a macaroni and cheese dinner or a three-course meal, the simple act of eating dinner with your kids has a powerful impact on the whole family.

Almost two decades of research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has consistently found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.

Studies show that kids who have family dinner five times a week are:

  • 45 percent less likely to drink and 66 percent less likely to do drugs.
  • More likely to get A's and B's in school.
  • More likely to think their parents are proud of them.

"The power of the family dinner comes not from the food on the plate but from who's at the table and what's happening there. The emotional and social benefits that come from family dinners are priceless," said Kathleen Ferrigno, CASA's Director of Marketing and head of CASA Family Day -- A Day to Eat Dinner with your Children. "Having dinner as a family is one of the easiest ways to create routine opportunities for parental engagement and communication, two keys to raising drug-free children."

Even with busy schedules, it's easier than you think to have a regular family meal. Here are some tips from CASA and Stouffer's:

  • Plan meals together.
  • Make a date -- schedule it on the calendar.
  • Cook together.
  • Unplug during dinner and talk.

Save time making dinner with family-friendly entrées such as Stouffer's Easy Express Cheesy Garlic Lasagna. This dish of freshly made pasta layered between mozzarella cheese, seasoned beef and a rich garlic tomato sauce is ready in only 18 minutes. While it's cooking, make a Creamy Parmesan Romaine salad and a simple Fruit Salad for a delicious dinner the whole family will enjoy.

Remember, dinner makes a difference, so be sure to take your seat at the dinner table often. For more tips on raising drug-free kids and creative ideas for family dinners, visit these websites: www.letsfixdinner.com and www.casafamilyday.org.

Conversation Starters
Looking for a way to engage in conversations with your kids? Use these conversation starters for a fun way to get everyone talking.

  • Where would you go for a dream vacation?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • What is one thing you could absolutely not live without?
  • If you could live in any time period, which one would it be?
  • What is your favorite thing you learned today?
  • What is one thing you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
  • What book are you reading right now? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?

A Dinnertime Story
"Let's Fix Dinner," a new book by award-winning author and illustrator Todd Parr, will make you giggle, grin, and think about all the ways dinner can bring families closer together. And since regular dinners and reliable housing are two of the best ways to help families -- and especially kids -- succeed, 100 percent of the net proceeds from sales of "Let's Fix Dinner" will support Habitat for Humanity. Order your copy of this limited edition book at www.letsfixdinner.com.

Take the Challenge
Take the Let's Fix Dinner Challenge and take it easy with time-saving and money-saving prizes. From now until December 31, 2010, all you need to do is log in at www.letsfixdinner.com and track your family dinners each week, and you'll get another chance to win.

Creamy Parmesan Romaine
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes
Cooling Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

2 slices whole-wheat bread (about 2 ounces total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce 
1 cup sliced cucumber
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 tablespoons Original Nestlé Coffee-Mate Liquid Coffee Creamer
2 tablespoons fat free sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Buitoni Refrigerated Freshly Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

PLACE bread cubes in single layer on large baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven; cool completely.

PLACE lettuce, cucumber and onion in large bowl; set aside.

COMBINE Coffee-mate, sour cream, mayonnaise, cheese, vinegar, salt and pepper in small bowl; stir until completely blended. Add to lettuce mixture; toss gently, yet thoroughly, to coat completely. Add bread cubes; toss gently.

Fresh Fruit Salad
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6

6 cups assorted fresh fruit (berries, grapes, sliced mango, strawberries and/or kiwifruit)
  Juice from 1 lime
3 tablespoons Tropical Flavor Nestlé Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped mint leaves

COMBINE fruit in large bowl. Add lime juice, Juicy Juice and mint; toss gently to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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