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Mum's family dinners can help shape the habits of a lifetime

With Mother's Day coming up, I thought I'd pay tribute to my own wonderful mum, Monica, and some of the valuable things that I've learnt from her about the importance of family and spending time together.

Our Sunday lunch is one of my favourite childhood memories, with the whole family coming together to share a traditional roast dinner with all the trimmings.

I credit my mum, a school headmistress, for my love of books and my relative disinterest in TV. At every mealtime she would read me a story as she fed me. To this day, I'm passionate about reading and books, actually more so than cooking! So I've never fallen into the trap of eating in front of the TV and engaging in mindless eating.

For Sunday lunch my dad would be in charge of the roast and spuds -- with lots of arguments on the best way to cook roasties! It wouldn't be complete without my mum's delicious desserts.

I think a wholesome homemade dessert once a week is a wonderful treat and a far better habit than a regular intake of junky shop-bought baked goods.

I really believe that sharing meals such as this builds a good childhood and a proper foundation for life. Eating habits and food preferences are established early in life. Eating meals together as a family promotes healthy eating through positive role-modelling and learning about healthy foods.

In addition, shared meals are an opportunity to pass along family traditions and help keep families connected and communicating.

Studies have found that children who regularly sit down to eat dinner together with their family eat more vegetables and fruits and less fried foods, sweets, salty snacks and pop.

They also consume more fibre, calcium, folate, iron, and vitamins B6, B12, C and E, and less saturated fat and trans fat.

Tips for family meals

- Meals should be quick and nutritious. Plan your week-night meals ahead of time and buy the foods you need in advance.

- Be flexible with meal timing. When children are involved in sports or whatever, plan to eat your family meal when most of the family can be there. You can also take a breakfast, lunch or dinner as a meal-to-go and eat at a park, arena, pool or gym.

- Involve kids in the preparation. They have their likes and dislikes so let them plan a meal and prepare part of it too. That way, they are more likely to enjoy it and eat it!

- Be a good role model. Plan to serve healthy foods and have your kids see you eat them too. The more times your child sees you eating healthy foods the more likely they will accept them.

I will be doing a Mother's Day cookery demonstration and book signing for 'Delish' on Saturday March 17 at 4pm in Café Libra, Hughes & Hughes, Dundrum.

Monica's Saucy Orange Pudding

Serves eight

Batter

200g sugar

100g butter

2 large eggs

2tbls marmalade

1tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp bread soda

250ml milk

200g plain flour

Syrup

250ml orange juice

50g sugar

1tbls butter

Pinch salt

Method

- Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease or butter a medium oven-proof glass dish or four small glass dishes.

- Cream together the butter, sugar, egg, marmalade and orange zest together.

- Dissolve the bread soda in the milk.

- Add the milk and flour, alternately, to the sugar mixture, mixing well.

- Bring all the syrup ingredients to the boil in a saucepan on the hob.

- Pour the boiling syrup into the oven dish or divide equally amongst the four oven dishes.

- Carefully spoon the batter into the hot syrup.

- Bake the pudding for about 30 minutes for the large size, and 10-15 minutes for individual puddings, until golden.

- Serve warm with cream or thin custard.

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Health & Living