Healthy Living in the North

Food: a foundation for building relationships

Mother and daughter picking peas

Picking peas with mom? Cooking dinner with grandpa? An annual Canada Day family picnic? Food is a foundation for building relationships!

Take a moment to recall some of your favourite childhood memories. Do they have a theme? My fondest memories seem to have two things in common: they’re all associated with a sense of being loved, accepted, and cared for, and they all involve food!

Many of my childhood memories are of time spent at my grandmother’s house, which was always warm, inviting, and filled with the distinct aromas of freshly baked bread and sauerkraut. We raided the garden and gorged ourselves on raspberries, rhubarb, and garden peas – still among my favourite fruits and vegetables today. My grandmother constantly prodded us to “eat, eat!” more of her homemade perogies or honey cake and it was clear that was how she expressed her love for us.

I also have a great memory of peeling fresh peaches with my Mom to prepare them for canning. We had soaked the peaches in hot water and were using paring knives to remove the skin. This was my first attempt at wielding a paring knife, and I remember how my confidence grew as my Mom gently coached me. I also remember how special I felt to have been chosen to help her with that task.

Food-related activities provide many opportunities for personal connection, and research has shown that there are several benefits to eating and cooking with your family. Children and adolescents who have more frequent family meals tend to eat more nutritious foods, perform better at school, and have higher self-esteem. Getting your kids involved with meal preparation is helpful, too: teens who participate in food preparation tend to have healthier eating patterns.

Unfortunately, our busy lives can make it hard to find time to prepare and share regular family meals. But take heart – family meals don’t always have to be formal dinners around the dining table! The most important thing is to create opportunities to connect and to share your stories and attention.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with what works for your family – even if it’s just one or two family meals per week – and build from there.
  • Plan ahead to make things easier on hectic weekday nights.
  • Host a make-your-own pizza or burrito night.
  • If gathering everyone together for dinner just isn’t possible, join each other for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • If after-school practices are scheduled around dinnertime, pack a picnic for the family to enjoy at the soccer field or baseball diamond.
  • Eating out? Ask everyone to put away their smartphones and tablets so you can focus on the meal and each other.
  • Start a new family tradition – maybe a brunch on Family Day or an annual chili cook-off on a summer long weekend?

For more inspiration, check out Better Together BC or the Family Kitchen.

Kelly Bogh

About Kelly Bogh

After spending many years in Ottawa and B.C.'s Lower Mainland, Kelly returned to her hometown of Prince George to complete her dietetic internship with Northern Health. One of the things she loves about Prince George is living in the "Bowl" and being able to get most places on foot! When she's not sifting through the research underlying dietary recommendations, she enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with family and friends (including four-legged furry ones).

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