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tips Ellen's tips to start your family traditions

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Mom was right when she wanted you home for dinner. 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. Now, a new study from Harvard University shows that kids who eat regularly with their parents may have healthier eating habits than those who don't.

Researchers surveyed over 16,000 children ages nine to 14 and divided them into three groups: those who ate dinner with their family every day, most days, or barely at all. The kids who ate with their families all or most days were one and a half times more likely to have at least five servings of fruits and veggies daily, consume less fried food and soda, and less artery-clogging saturated and trans fats. In addition, they got more fiber, calcium, folate, iron and several other nutrients.

The results highlight the benefits of making family dinners a daily event. Time is no excuse. More than 88% of the mothers of the children in the study were working moms. But the clock is ticking. The study found the older the kids were, the less often they ate dinner with their parents.

Here are some helpful tips from to jump-start your family dinner tradition from Great Adventures In Food by FoodFit founder and CEO Ellen Haas.

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Make food an adventure. Get the kids involved in the process at every step of the way; making decisions about food, shopping, cooking, even setting the table. Sometimes it can take coaxing to get children to move beyond old favorites like plain pasta. That's when games are great. Highlight the favorite foods of family members.

Go around the world with bread. Try pita bread from the Middle East, chapatis from India and East Africa, rye bread from Sweden, bread sticks from Italy and baguettes from France. Tack up a map and mark the countries whose bread your family has tasted.

Try a food pyramid countdown. See how many different foods in each food group everyone in your family eats each day. Have your kids make a poster of the pyramid. Hang it in the kitchen. Give everyone paper and a pencil and start counting. Keep a running list for a week. When everyone adds variety and balance to their diet, celebrate with a family hike or a picnic.

Have a family tasting party to introduce new foods to everyone. Use the five senses to explore new flavors, colors, textures, and smells. For instance, buy five or six different types of fruit, such as strawberries, plums, papayas, nectarines and raspberries. Gather round the table and answer these questions:

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  • See it. Is it wrinkled or smooth?
  • Touch it. Is it soft or hard?
  • Smell it. Is it sweet-smelling?
  • Taste it. Is it sweet, sour or something else?
  • Hear it. When you chew is it crunchy or mushy?


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