As a grandmother of 3 who has written nutrition and lifestyle enhancement cookbooks, both my food and my research has lead me to believe that, yes, we do have an investment in the next generation’s overall health and well-being. Children learn from their elders’ example what to eat, how to cook and model their hobbies after their parents and caretakers. Research suggests that there are 11 million grandparents active in their grandchildren’s lives today; and many of them look after these youngsters while the parents work.
Certain changes in our society make the kind of leadership I’m suggesting tough—like packing school lunches based on school guidelines that may or may not outlaw peanut butter. You could say, when the going gets tough, the tough buy lunch tickets, which creates a new parental quandary: are my kids being served healthy food? A recent episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution glaringly discussed the food elementary school children in Huntington, West Virginia were fed for breakfast and lunch 180 days a year. Some of the choices included scrambled eggs (made with a dried egg product, not eggs) and cheese (not real cheese) pizza for breakfast, chicken nuggets for lunch, two servings of bread per meal, chocolate, strawberry flavored and colored milk, no vegetables – basically only beige foods allowed; as a further example of an unhealthy lifestyle, when Jamie entered a first grade class and held up fresh vegetables like tomatoes, cauliflower and beets, the children couldn’t identify any of the fresh foods.
This brings up a question worth pondering: When appointed meal times roll around, I think it’s important to introduce new, healthful foods along with the tried and true family favorites. I also believe that if the children sit together with the family during the meal, they will copy what you eat – even if it’s just a bite to start.
For example, when my two grandchildren were visiting recently, I offered to make chocolate chip pancakes for my oldest granddaughter, because she loves them. The youngest shook his head vigorously and declared his aversion to pancakes. I asked him if he liked chocolate chip cookies and that brought a vigorous head shake in the affirmative. So, I made pancakes for Mallory and smaller disks for Ben, which he ate with his hands, as he would a cookie. Everyone was happy! We all sat down at the table and both children sampled all of the other dishes passed around for brunch.
It was a victory for me, the grandmother—yet it made me realize if I had sole charge of my grandkids and fought food wars every day, I may not be so lucky; which brings me around to my salute to today’s full-time parents and guardians. Tough as it is, though, there are some positives! For starters, today’s moms and dads have more meal choices than we did. Some foods are cheap and easy. Others may have more nutritional value, but are more costly and involve time spent on food preparation. As a grandparent, it’s not about advice or finger pointing; it’s about leading by example. Nanas may not have to pack the lunches, but when they get a chance to offer fresh, wholesome foods to their grandchildren, we jump at the chance. For your next family supper, I offer you my recipe for Farm Fresh Beets with Spinach. You might be surprised when you offer a taste to your grandchild. The sweetness of the beets, paired with tart spinach is a yummy combination that everyone will love.
And so, “the beat” goes on!
Jorj Morgan is a cookbook author and caterer with over 25 years experience as an “Extreme Party Planner”. For more tips on entertaining the family, particularly your little ones, visit her websites From Nana’s Kitchen With Love and www.jorj.com.