Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Beet Goes On

A recent column posted on by Adair Lara listed the 10 best reasons you should be glad you’re just the grandma and not the parent. It includes all of the obvious - and some of the less obvious, like no more PTA meetings or bake sales, and bravely going ahead with the purchase of a non-educational toy. She includes in the list, not having to pack lunches based on the current school guidelines, which require multiple recyclable plastic containers and eliminates what used to be staples, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Why, you ask? Peanut allergies. Mothers have a more difficult task filling lunch boxes than we did. My children grew up on foods packed in throw-away brown paper bags and a quarter for a slice of cheese pizza on Fridays.

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: do we, as Nanas have a role in our grandchildren’s diet? I think we do.
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.
My grandchildren are fortunate in that both of their parents believe in a meal plan filled with fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as lean protein and whole grains. Of course, there are trips to the fast food joints, and that works because most of the meals contain all of the nutrition they need to build healthy bones and smart brains. It’s about balance – always.
Today’s moms 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. The beat goes on…..
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.
Take a minute to sign up for The Nana Network and share your favorite family recipes with all of us Nanas. Don’t skip a beet!!

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