by Denise Albert, Registered Dietitian
The days are so crazy, especially now that the little ones are back in school. We have always tried to sit down at the table as a family for our dinner meal but there are times when circumstances dictate a little tube time dining. That’s when I let a meal be served and eaten in front of a favorite show or movie. I try to stress to the kids that this is a treat because I know the importance of taking the time to sit at the table in front of and beside each other.
Believe it or not, this simple act has a great impact on food choices, especially in children. According to Stanford Children’s Health, “Numerous studies show that eating together not only is an important aspect of family life, but helps make weight control easier. When a family sits down together, it helps them handle the stresses of daily life and the hassles of day-to-day existence. Eating together tends to promote more sensible eating habits, which in turn helps family members manage their weight more easily.” The American College of Pediatricians goes further and says that, “Family meals provide structure for the day, allowing children to feel more secure and safe, knowing what to expect. They also permit parental monitoring of children’s moods, behavior, and activities, providing parents with insight into the emotional well-being of their children.”
But speaking about the food specifically, it becomes the centerpiece of a multi sensory experience. Simply put, the child becomes more mindful and aware of what is on their plate and the tastes they are experiencing when sitting at a table without the distractions of entertainment. This in turn makes them better eaters and I have to say, as a mom, I cherish these times with my family where we can share about our day, talk about the meal in front of us, and make plans together.
Vegetable Mac and Cheese
Try this recipe for a warm family experience at the table.
2 cups macaroni style pasta
1 cup skim or 1% milk (alternatively: unsweetened almond milk or other milk substitute)
2 cups shredded cheese-- my family loves colby jack in this recipe
1 full head of cauliflower cleaned and cut into small flowerettes (if cauliflower is not your taste, choose away! Any veg could easily be incorporated here with the same roasting technique)
1 tsp nutmeg
Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.
Toss your cut cauliflower in olive oil and spread it out on a roasting pan or cookie sheet. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. When done there should be a light brown or charring on the vegetable.
Drain pasta and add milk, reserved pasta water, and shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and all ingredients are well mixed.
Fold in the roasted cauliflower and add nutmeg.