Tuesday, November 18, 2008


This Thanksgiving, be a kid again

I have to say Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday growing up. The family traditions during this holiday were so important during my own childhood. I am privileged to re-live these experiences and shape new ones with three beautiful blessings of my own.

Here are the ways I’ll be spending time together in the kitchen with my kids:

Creating memories not just meals. I was always in charge of helping my grandmother with her pies. I remember that special time together with her in her farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania.

The dough, I will never forget, was made from scratch. Not the kind you get from a box and roll out. (Not that there is anything wrong with that – I do it myself from time to time.) Making your own dough is a good lesson to teach. It requires patience and practice — and creates special memories.

I firmly believe that a very big part of teaching our kids to eat well involves getting them in the kitchen. My boys have had a few lessons in making dough from scratch. And not just pie dough. The dough for our cinnamon buns on Christmas morning requires extra special touches.

Making dough is a kind of parental metaphor for me. It’s hands on! It “kneads” practice and LOTS of patience. It is filled with eager anticipation, shaping and molding along the way and is completed with endless admiration and pride.

Playing with our food. Part of the experience of learning about food is play. So what fun we are going to have creating a nibbling centerpiece this year! I am partial to the Fruit Topiary we came across in Scholastic’s Parent and Child Magazine. But my boys voted for the absolutely edible vegetarian turkey from Family Fun!

Check out this link: http://jas.familyfun.go.com/recipefinder/display?id=50483.
With a melon body, a pear head and cheese and grape kabobs as feathers, what’s not to love? This is a fun way to up your family’s fruit and vegetable intake this season. I am going to find it hard to stay away from the kid’s table.

A side dish their very own. Cooking instills pride. Have your child take ownership of something. We like the idea of swirling mashed white and sweet potatoes together. Peeling and mashing are kid friendly.

Have your kids name their creation something fun like “Sweet Swirly Mashers.” Or how about that plain old stuffing that my kids won’t touch. Have them recreate it with fun additions like nuts and fruit. Apples, dried cranberries and pecans or walnuts all taste spectacular together in our “whole grain fruity-nut-nut bread pie.” We bake it in a pie dish. Go on - think outside the bird!

And you don’t have to be a Mom RD (Registered Dietitian) to teach food facts along the way. While making your pumpkin pie together this year, share these fun food facts with your kids. The kitchen is a great place to teach math, build vocabulary and share important family time together. For more information on fun food facts you can share with your kids, visit kids-cooking-activities.com/food-facts.html.

Be graceful: While grace before meals is family tradition year-round in our house, it will be a top priority before our Thanksgiving meal. Being thankful should not go without being said. This year my boys are choosing their favorite grace from our collection of many books and cards we’ve read throughout the year. Some of our favorites are: 52 Ways to Say Grace by Running Press; Give me Grace by Cynthia Rylant; and 100 Graces: Mealtime Blessings by Marcia M. Kelly.

The family table: There is just something about assigning seats that brings out the kid in me. It’s another tradition I cherish to this day. I see my boys light up when it is time to set the table: “Grandma is sitting here and Uncle Pete is going to be next to me!” is music to my ears coming from the dining room. Last year we made a variation of these place gobblers from Family Fun Magazine.

Finishing touches: Yes we have all heard the advice to get out and go for a walk after our Thanksgiving meal. How many of us do it? Fortunately for kids, physical activity generally comes easy. So join in to get your turkey-stuffed self moving.

One year it was raining out and the boys took to flipping on couch cushions and dancing to the karaoke machine. You bet I joined in. They didn’t know I could cartwheel. A family game is a nice way to end the day.

E-mail me your family-friendly healthy holiday traditions. I’d love to hear from you. And have happy, healthy holidays.

Renee Frechette is a registered dietitian who serves as the outpatient oncology dietitian in the The William W. Backus Hospital’s Radiation Therapy Center. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Frechette and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at backushospital.org.

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