Did you have a favorite meal growing up? Why was it your favorite, and is it still a favorite?
September is less than a week away, and we will be celebrating Family Meals month! Research shows that children who eat with their family have better self-esteem, better grades, and eat more fruits and vegetables.
For me, growing up in an Italian household, we ate dinner together every night. Fruits and vegetables were staples in our home. Eating two to three course dinners, our meals started with a bowl of greens or legumes and ended with my parents or grandparents cutting up pears, apples, apricots or peaches – any fruit in season – passing them around the table one-by-one for us kids who were not old enough to use a knife. And after a holiday meal, I remember fun we had playing the word game Scrabble® while working hard to crack a variety of nuts from their shells. Little did I know then, that lentils, broccoli rabe, walnuts, and almonds were going to be culinary nutrition stars of today.
Family meals nourish our bodies, and they can also be the hub of love and laughter feeding our spirit. My childhood dinners lasted about an hour (maybe longer) because we didn’t simply eat and run from the table —although I admit there were times I couldn’t wait to go back outside and ride my bicycle. Now, as an adult, I am even more grateful for the time spent sitting together around the table sharing the day’s activities even if it was in our very tight kitchen.
Children can reap many benefits from eating together with family, and parents are grinning. According to the new 2017 report from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), parents also state their meal is more satisfying when they eat with their children. It may be the peace of mind knowing where your children are, or the joy of learning more about them when sitting at the same table. To gain a better appreciation of the lasting impact of family meals from different perspectives, I asked a few nutrition experts to name their favorite meal while growing up and the influence it had on them as an adult with their own family! Here is what they shared……
Tuning in Family Conversations as Mom Sets the Table for the Future:
Founder of Family. Food. Fiesta, Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, recalls growing up with the luxury of enjoying nightly family dinners. Her mom’s healthy cooking set the stage for how she ate as an adult and the pattern she sets with her own family. Their dinner table always included a starch (like rice or noodles), a protein–mainly fish (since Sarah grew up in Hawaii) and a vegetable. One of her favorite meals growing up was her mom’s “tuna noodle casserole”, always served with a side of vegetables. Sarah loved the combination of the melted cheese with the noodles, and any type of seafood in her meal was a winner. “Eating family dinners was very special to me because it was a time to talk to one another and share our day’s adventure” says Sarah. Fast forward to the present, Sarah still enjoys nightly family dinners with her own family and loves to make her mom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole combined with broccoli –a little addition to an old classic. Sarah says, “It is a one-pot meal that I love to prepare, and my family loves to eat!” See the link to Sarah’s Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe: http://www.sarahkoszyk.com/cupboard-cookout-classic-tuna-noodle-casserole-revamped/
Joy of Sharing Laughs and Songs Long After The Meal:
Holidays can be uplifting, especially for children. Coach, Energy Igniter, and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Chere Bork smiles when she thinks of holiday breakfasts eating her Uncle Jack’s special homemade polish sausage served with hard cooked eggs! Chere distinctly remembers, “As the polish sausage was cooking, they threw in the ends of rye bread to soak up all the flavors of the sausage. Only problem was that it looked so gross, every friend I bought over to eat it would look at it and not want to taste it, including my boyfriend Gary who is now my husband.” This meal may not be loaded with fruit or vegetables but has quality protein made with the love. We are reminded of the experience around a meal, as Chere reminisces “the lively conversation with five kids trying to get attention, and after eating as we cleaned up the dishes we would “fight” over who would wash instead of dry, all this commotion as we also sang songs together.” Chere doesn’t make this dish at home, however, because of it holds loving memories she eats it with joy when she is back in Milwaukee.
Fun Introducing New Foods:
Food and Nutrition Communications Consultant, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Martha Marino, has mealtime memories of her parents sitting like bookends at each end of a padded bench that wrapped around their family’s Formica-topped kitchen table wedged in a nook against the wall, so she and her “squirmy” younger brothers couldn’t escape the dinner table. Not sure why they would want to leave because read how Martha describes her mom’s creativity in one of her favorite meals ..“My mom pantomimed a new food. First, she acted like she was painting, and we guessed “Art!” Then she pointed to her eye and grasped her throat with her hand. “Art-eye-choke!!” Peeling off the artichoke’s petals and dipping them in butter was a wonderful new experience. She served them with spare ribs, and my dad later kidded her for creating a menu that took forever to eat. That was okay because we all enjoyed talking and laughing at the table. The table pleasures of my childhood carried over to my own parenting, and my kids and I ate dinner together nearly every night. That pattern has continued now that they’re adults with families of their own. They wouldn’t think of dining solo: they value connecting with each other at the table with delicious, healthy food. Sometimes even artichokes!” Check out Martha’s blog posts at https://travelerstable.blog/
After reflecting on all our mealtime favorites, I see some common threads. It isn’t only the consistency of eating dinner together almost nightly, it is also the consistent bonding and connecting with the people you love, meal after meal. These are precious moments, especially in today’s busy e-world, therefore, a huge incentive for parents to plan a meal together. In the spirit of Family Meals Month, why not try to take a moment, sit down and plan to eat together at least 3 times a week during September, Family Meals Month!