Studies suggest home-cooked meals could help against the swell of childhood obesity -- a problem that has tripled among children and adolescents.
The health consequences are already emerging. Critical diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cancer, are more prevalent among kids.
Even though homemade meals can help curtail childhood obesity, busy parents feel like they don't always have time to prepare healthy dinners. Tracie McMillan, the bestselling author of "The American Way of Eating," observes that, as a result of such stresses, some parents think of cooking as a chore.
But thanks to meal solutions -- such as pre-made sauces and marinades -- that are available in today's supermarkets, homemade meals can be easy, delicious and gratifying to make.
More than ever, it is possible to "eat out" at home on a regular basis. Lifestyle experts like Chef LaLa urge parents to designate at least three days of the week such as "Soup Monday" or "Taco Tuesday." This will make it easier to decide what to make each night.
"It creates a routine," says Chef LaLa, "but allows parents to be creative at the same time. For Taco Tuesday, this week it might be beef tacos, next week make the 'tacos' with lettuce wraps instead. Have fun with it!"
Have fun, yes, and improve your family's health at the same time. Try Chef LaLa's chicken lettuce wraps for this week's family dinner:
CHEF LALA'S CHINO-LATINO CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound ground chicken
4 ounces Chef LaLa Homemade Carne Asada Marinade
1/3 cup jícama, diced small
1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
12 large lettuce leaves
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
2. Stir in Chef LaLa Homemade Carne Asada Marinade. Stir-fry 2 minutes or until sauce boils. Remove from heat, stir in jícama, green onions, and peanuts.
3. Divide filling evenly among lettuce leaves; roll up.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Do not let filling stand at room temperature for more than 2 hours.