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Holiday traditions, family dinners nourish relationships

Article Published: Dec. 22, 2011 | Modified: Dec. 22, 2011

This week abounds with holiday traditions. Purchasing last-minute gifts and wrapping them, cooking favorite foods to share at parties with friends, enjoying a traditional holiday meal; the list goes on and on.

While this time may seem like a frenzied flurry of activity, traditions are the essence of renewal with family and friends. Through traditions, you reinforce your connection with others and are part of something greater than yourself. When holiday traditions are created, every time you go back to that tradition, it renews the emotional energy and bonding of the past. That’s one reason those with happy family lives often love the holidays and the not so fortunate dread them.

Committing time to relationships during the holiday season is important. But on a daily basis, the importance of sitting down to meals with family and friends can’t be over-emphasized. In our busy daily lives, we still have to eat. The way to the heart, mind and soul is often through the stomach. Sharing events of the day makes us feel connected. Discussing how we feel about issues in the world and our personal lives reinforces our values. While this is important for adults, it’s even more so for children.

The benefits of family dinners go far beyond what is being served on the plate. More than a decade of research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.

Compared to teens who eat dinners with family between five and seven times per week, those who share fewer than three family dinners a week are nearly four times likelier to smoke cigarettes; more than twice as likely to drink alcohol; two-and-a-half times likelier to smoke pot; and almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future.

Kids thrive on the routine established during frequent family dinners. It gives them a sense of security and confidence. They learn manners and how to socialize. There are many lessons to be learned around the dinner table. Just asking children about the best and worst part of their day teaches parents so much about the environment they are growing up in.

With good food, good company and good discussion, a holiday or dinner tradition is hard to beat!
Here is a refreshing recipe that is not as rich as most traditional holiday foods, taken from

Harvest Salad Toss

5 cups leafy greens (such as romaine lettuce, spinach, mixed greens, etc.)
1 medium apple, diced
1/4 roasted cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
3/8 cup fat-free or low-fat raspberry vinaigrette dressing

Wash leafy greens thoroughly in running water.
Tear into bite-sized pieces.
In large bowl, toss leafy greens, apples, walnuts, cranberries and onions.
Add dressing and toss to coat.
Serve immediately. Serves 6.

(Per Serving Calories: 100; Total Fat: 3g; Sodium: 120mg; Total Carbohydrate: 17g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Protein 2g)

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email or call (828) 264-3061.

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