August 17th, 2018

From Our Table: Family traditions created and shared at dinner

By Medicine Hat News on January 30, 2018.

I love the new commercial for Presidents Choice that starts with the mom nursing her baby girl then continues as she grows showing her eating with family and friends ending with the young woman eating alone in an office with the line, “We grow up eating together. Why do we stop?”

Family meals are crucial. They help provide opportunities to create and share experiences that are meaningful and offer a sense of belonging from the very young to the very old. Much research has been done in this area and the more information that is gathered the more important family mealtime is shown to be.

Why are family meals so powerful? They provide an experience that touches all our senses; sight, touch, taste, smell and listening. They offer the opportunity to connect with each other, communicate and give time and attention. The key word in that statement is “opportunity.” It doesn’t have to be a sit down fancy formal meal. The key is to make it fun, frequent and family oriented. Mealtime should be free from disciplinary measures when children are lectured or reprimanded for events outside of the meal. Of course they still need to be taught proper behaviour at the table. Focus on being positive and having fun. Also avoid distractions like television and personal devices like iPhones. Relax it’s only a few minutes. It’s about giving time and attention to each other through undistracted conversation.

Aim to have at least four meals a week together. It can be breakfast, lunch or supper. Typically supper is the easiest time to get together. Believe me I know the challenges of family dinners. Raising four active boys involved in several sports, music and other activities I had to come up with many creative ideas to achieve my priority of eating together. Sometimes we ate together at 4:30 sometimes at 7:00. The crockpot became my best friend and I even got together with friends to get organized and make up multiple meals ahead so the prep work was done. From that necessity of a crazy busy life came the best-selling cookbook “The Big Cook” I co-wrote. Getting together to eat as a family was hard but so well worth it. When we promoted the book one of my personal platforms was the importance of family meals.

Research shows Sharing family meals together has a wide range of benefits. Here are just a few:

* Better academic performance

* Higher self-esteem

* Greater sense of resilience

* Lower risk of substance abuse

* Lower risk of teen pregnancy

* Lower risk of depression

* Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders

* Lower rates of obesity

* A sense of family unity and identity

* A vehicle to carry valued family traditions

* Strengthens family connections

* Development of language abilities

* Parental monitoring of child’s moods, what they are doing, who their friends are and where they go.

* Gives structure and routine which increases a child’s sense of security and improves well being.

* Improves literacy development

* Healthier eating habits

That is an extremely impressive list. It proves that it is well worth the effort to make family mealtime a priority. We need strong families to give our community a strong foundation.

On Feb. 1 my last teenager, my baby Benjamin, will move into his 20s. Dr. Davis, if you are reading this, thank you again for saving both our lives. Somewhere along the years we have established a birthday meal tradition. It consists of creamy mashed potatoes, crisp cooked carrots, turnip delight, colourful coleslaw and porcupine meatballs. Finished with either chocolate cake with Aunty Myrna’s brown sugar icing or angel food cake with whip cream and strawberries. And to make it extra special my mom would often wrap coins in wax paper and hide them in the cake.

Wonderful family traditions created and shared at the family dinner table.

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Crispy Carrots

8 large carrots peeled and cut 1 cm wide and about 4 cm long

4 tsp brown sugar

4 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup butter

Steam carrots for about 10-12 minutes or until crispy tender. Do not overcook. Can also cook in the microwave in a 1 and one-half quart casserole dish with 2 tablespoons of water for about 8 minutes stirring halfway. Drain cooked carrots and add all remaining ingredients. If microwaving cover and cook 2-3 minutes or until sauce thickens. If using stovetop add all ingredients to steamed carrots and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve with a sprinkle of dried dill or fresh finely chopped dill.

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