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Food and Family

Making Food a Family Affair

Not simply a time to eat, dinnertime is a chance to catch up on what your kids learned in school during the day. Dinner is often the only moment in a family's busy day to spend relaxing and sharing. We've come up with four ways to make healthy eating a joyful family affair drawing from Great Adventures In Food by FoodFit's founder and CEO Ellen Haas.

You won't be sorry. Children's eating patterns are formed by the time they are 12, and as they grow older, these patterns become harder and harder to change. A study from Harvard University shows that kids who eat regularly with their parents may have healthier eating habits than those who don't.

Let everyone in the family use his or her taste buds to help build the family meal repertoire. Kids can be notoriously unadventurous when it comes to eating, so you'll have more success if you let them play a role in choosing new foods. Eating many different foods betters the chances of getting the forty-plus nutrients you and your family need for good health. "It can take time for younger kids to grow accustomed to new fruits and vegetables," remembers Ellen Haas. "I found cutting everything up into bite-sized pieces made it more fun and less daunting for my children Lisa and Jason."

 

  Let little hands pitch in making dinner. Younger helpers can tear lettuce or help stir. Older children can chop ingredients under mom or dad's watchful eye. It may be messy or take longer, but the sense of accomplishment and the closeness that children feel makes it all worth it.

 

  Make your meals seasonal. "My mother always began dinner with fruit — grapefruit in the fall and winter, cantaloupe in the spring and honeydew melon in the summer," explains Ellen Haas. " As a girl, I knew fall had arrived when grapefruit appeared on the table again." Fruits and vegetables that are in season are cheaper and better tasting.

 

  Offer fruits and vegetables as fast food. Have good-for-you nibbles like washed carrots, celery sticks or peas ready to go in the refrigerator. Keep a bowl of washed fruit on the table to get everyone in the family through those hungry moments just before dinner is ready.

 

  Go on family outings to the local farmer's market. They are fantastic places for kids to see and learn about the different foods they eat. Use fresh as it gets — a guide to shopping at farmer's markets to get started. Have everyone in the family pick their favorite tomatoes, peaches or greens.

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