Newswise — DALLAS — The percentage of the family food budget spent on away-from-home food has steadily increased since the 1970s and so has the amount of calories families consume, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service family and consumer sciences expert in Dallas.
“When dining out, there is a tendency to choose foods higher in calories, and large portions have become more common,” said Susan Ballabina, AgriLife Extension’s North Texas regional program director for family and consumer sciences. “In addition, many people become overwhelmed when they think of menu planning and trying to prepare healthy, cost-effective meals for themselves and their families.”
To help address this situation, Ballabina said, the Dinner Tonight! program was developed by AgriLife Extension agents statewide with the knowledge and expertise to provide resources and recipes to help encourage at-home family mealtime. This program provides quick, nutritious, cost-effective recipes to consumers through weekly video webcasts and other web-based methods, including blogs and Facebook.
“Every Monday, a new video demonstration is released by a member of the Dinner Tonight! team,” Ballabina said. “We also added Dinner Tonight Healthy Cooking Schools as a new initiative in 2012. These cooking schools provide an opportunity to bring people together in a fun environment to further our mission of teaching families about healthy meal planning and preparation.”
There are now more than 200 free video webcasts of easy-to-prepare nutritious recipes available at http://healthyliving.tamu.edu under the Dinner Tonight! tab. Recipe groups include chicken, beef, seafood, pork, turkey, vegetarian, salads, soups, sandwiches casseroles and slow-cooker.
The Dinner Tonight! videos average three to five minutes and are produced in a similar manner as mainstream television cooking shows. The site is updated every Monday with a new recipe and webcast, Ballabina said. Families can sign up on the website to receive weekly emails announcing new recipes.
“We had 50 new video demonstrations released in 2012 and had 18,049 unique visitors from over 50 different countries or territories to the Dinner Tonight! website,” Ballabina said. “We also have more than 1,000 people currently following Dinner Tonight! on Facebook.”
Additionally, Dinner Tonight! videos are shown each Monday in the Dallas area on the KWTX “Mom’s Every Day” newscast. “In 2012 we also conducted eight Dinner Tonight Healthy Cooking Schools, reaching over 950 people.”
Ballabina said program evaluations have shown Dinner Tonight! efforts have been “highly successful in having a positive impact on family nutrition” based on evaluation surveys given to those involved in the program.
“Almost all of those we have surveyed responded they intend to prepare some of the recipes demonstrated and to experiment with healthy recipe modifications and substitutions,” she said. “And a large majority say they intend to incorporate new, healthy foods in their diet, eat more fruits and vegetables and plan healthy meals in advance.”
Ballabina said while Dinner Tonight! is one of the newer programs offered by AgriLife Extension to promote healthy living, an array of additional information on health and wellness topics and programs can be found at http://fcs.tamu.edu/.