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Connecting With Our Families At The Table

Connecting With Our Families At The Table

I cook, eat, and love food for a living.  I also write on the topic of improving our kids’ lives through food.  So when the holidays come, people assume I’ll cook a crazy, expensive, time-consuming dinner.  But guess what?  No one in my house really cares what I make.  (I can hear you saying, “Whaaat?”) It’s true.  Food is the obvious, perfect, and fun excuse to come together, but it’s not the best part for me.   It’s the long-term benefits of eating around a table as a family that draw me there night after night.  Here is why I make an effort to bring my family to the table, as researched by supersmart people who spend their days pondering big stuff:

·         Kids who regularly eat dinner with their parents are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.
·         These kids get better grades, have less stress in their lives, and higher self esteem.  (Whoa.)
·         They’re more likely to share tough topics with you.
·         Eating homemade instead of processed food can help reduce obesity in children and adults.   (This is why I cook-it’s my ultimate expression of love for my family.)

So what if you don’t sit down together regularly but want to start?  The holidays are the perfect excuse!  Here are my simple ways to connect with your family around the dinner table this holiday season:

·         Let the youngsters help pick what to cook.  When kids play a part in choosing, they’re more willing to try foods-even veggies!
·         Figure out one fun thing to do together at the table.  This can be a game or simply a question like “What was the best part of your day?”
·         Lower your expectations.  I’m totally serious. Ten minutes at the table for a 3 year old can feel like an eternity.  Recognize that, and as you continue to make it a habit, your kids will start to linger longer.
·         Let the kids set and decorate the table.  It may not be perfect, but they’ll want to be there.  At Thanksgiving, we put down butcher paper with crayons and glitter glue for 5 young boys.  We four adults couldn’t believe how long they sat, laughed, and ate together.
·         It may sound obvious, but ditch the technology at the table and make a little eye contact with your family.  You’ll be amazed at what it does.
 
Curious if I take my own advice?  Here is what my kids and I decided to make for the holidays, as of 7 am this morning:

Christmas Eve: “The Best Meatballs Ever,” Crunchy Caesar Salad, and Chocolate Pots de Crème .  It’s all make-ahead-hooray!
Christmas Morning: Homemade Doughnut Holes.  I do this once a year, and I love that it’s a tradition that has stuck.
Christmas Dinner: Twisted Fish.  It’s totally simple to make, delicious, and fun to serve.
 
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Amanda Haas is the founder of One Family One Meal, a cookbook writer, and the manager of Williams-Sonoma’s test kitchen.  She has contributed to more than a dozen cookbooks, including the IACP Book of the Year A16 Food + Wine; Todd English’s Cooking in Everyday English; and SPQR, Modern Italian Food and Wine.  Most recently, Haas published Real Family Food, a cookbook designed to eliminate all of the obstacles that keep us from cooking for our families.  She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two sons.
 
Watch Amanda's MAKERS video.