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Are You a Healthy Cook?

Columnist Tara Parker-Pope writes a column and blog for the New York Times called “Well.” It’s about the “choices we make when we buy groceries, drive our cars and hang out with our kids.” She shares “medical research and expert opinions to help readers take control of their health and live well every day.”

I clipped her post from March 16, 2009 called “What’s Your Cooking Personality?” because healthy eating is a value that has been shared by over five generations in my family. In her post she explained that more and more people are making their own meals from scratch these days. But just how healthful those meals are depends on the person who buys and prepares the food. These “nutritional gatekeepers” as researchers call them, influence more than 70% of the foods we eat. Cornell University researchers studied nearly 800 family cooks and determined five distinct types of cooking personalities. From the descriptions I recognized myself as a “healthy” cook, which accounted for 20% of those surveyed.

During a recent visit at my daughter’s house, a scene in her kitchen reinforced that belief. Four generations stood around the kitchen counter preparing our stir-fry dinner: my mom, my daughter, my two granddaughters, and me. My mom was “lovingly” removing the strings from the snap peas. My daughter was cutting up broccoli and cauliflower into bite-size pieces. Six-year old Juliet helped me cut cubes of tofu while her little sister, two-year old Amelia, tasted it!

The scene reinforced an awareness I’ve realized over the last few years as I’ve watched my daughter introduce food to her two daughters. With each new generation the “nutritional gatekeepers” in my family have taken “healthy” to a new level.

When I was growing up, I spent many weekends at my maternal grandma’s apartment. She always cooked for me and prepared simple, delicious, healthy meals. My favorite was round-bone lamb chops and artichokes. My mom found a creative outlet in cooking and prepared dinner for my two brothers and me every night. When my dad got home from work, we all sat down together and enjoyed her delicious, well-balanced meals. Influenced by Sunset Magazine, she introduced more modern recipes into our menus and inspired me to make my own cookbooks by clipping recipes from magazines and newspapers.

As a stay-at-home mom, I enjoyed experimenting with new ingredients and continued the tradition of sitting down to dinner every night with my husband and two children. Now I enjoy watching my daughter’s cooking style evolve. Like so many in her generation, she does not eat meat. She has introduced more grains, like quinoa and brown rice, and “healthy” ingredients into her family’s diet.

For our family stir-fry the other night my mom opted out on the tofu, substituting chicken instead. But she has definitely been a strong influence in all of us loving our veggies! As we sat around the table enjoying our delicious tofu stir-fry and brown rice, I was grateful that I come from a family of “nutritional gatekeepers” with healthy eating habits. And I am even more thankful that my two granddaughters are learning to eat healthy foods by example.

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