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Family dinnertime tricks

David Venable, host of QVC's "In The Kitchen

David Venable, host of QVC's "In The Kitchen With David," offers family dinnertime tips. Credit: iStock

Strong family ties are built around the dinner table, and with the school year back in full swing, it's not a bad time to reinforce family dinners.

"Study after study proves the power of togetherness," said David Venable, host of  "In the Kitchen with David" on QVC. "Kids who eat dinner with their parents get better grades in school, they’re more likely to become successful adults, and they learn necessary people skills."

Weekdays can be chaotic, but there are ways to get everyone involved and still have time to eat a family meal together. Here, Venable shares some tips.

Set a time for dinner. "Make a schedule that includes everyone’s commitments and figure out a time you can all sit down together," Venable said. "You don’t need hour-plus time slots; 30 minutes is plenty of time and probably more realistic. Whenever it works (understanding, of course, that some nights just won’t) pencil in dinner on the calendar so everyone understands it’s important."

Ask for input. When you’re planning your recipes, get everyone’s input, he said. "Ask the kids (and your spouse) what they’d like for dinner and write out a menu on a chalk- or dry erase-board in your kitchen. Just be sure to add veggies, fruits and healthy sides to ensure you’re making balanced meals."

Plan ahead. "If possible, prepare some meals ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze them for later," he said. Or, figure out ways to make your family’s favorites in a Crock-Pot or pressure cooker."

Divvy up responsibilities. When it’s dinnertime, give everyone a responsibility. "Get your teens and preteens into the kitchen and give them a task, whether it be cutting and chopping vegetables for a salad or helping prepare a side dish.

Make it quality time. While dinner’s cooking, give the plates, silverware, and napkins to the children (and your spouse) and ask them to set the table. "Turn off the television, and then, as soon as you sit down, pass a basket around the table to collect all the cellphones, tablets, gaming devices or anything that may cause a disruption," he said. "Talk. Listen. Participate in conversation."

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a one-pot turkey and corn chowder recipe from David Venable.

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