Are you worried about your grandchild’s diet? Feeding our grandchildren is one of the first and most primal ways we can help nurture them. We can also help them establish smarter and better relationships with food. But before you say anything to your grandchild or her parents, read columnist Ask Amy’s answer to a concerned Nana.
Dear Amy: I have a 6-year-old granddaughter. She is pretty, kind, smart, helpful and active with many friends. She has always been a picky eater. She eats very little protein, hardly any vegetables, some fruit, nuts and peanut butter, but does consume dairy and lots of salty snacks, breads, cookies, sweets, “health” bars, etc.
Her parents have tried to get her to eat more nutritious foods, but they continually give in with the sweet and salty items because they want her to eat something. They also often buy her sweets. She is noticeably heavier than others her age.
I’ve made a few light suggestions, but I’m no expert. I don’t want to make them feel they’re being bad parents. I don’t know if they’ve asked their pediatrician.
I worry about obesity, diabetes, kids making fun of her, and other results of being overweight. Do you have any suggestions? Can you give me the words for talking to the parents, and offer some helpful advice?
Dear Nana: Your granddaughter is at the perfect age to learn about healthy nutrition. Learning about nutrition can be as simple as playing a game in the supermarket, learning to read labels, and choosing “whole” foods over processed foods. You can do this with her. Tell her to find some of her favorite foods and see if you can replace some of the processed foods with an equivalent product but with fewer ingredients. Don’t force her to eat meat (dairy, nuts, eggs and veggies provide protein).
The very best way for children to learn about nutrition is to cook!
Grandchildren have been cooking with their “Nanas” since the dawn of time.
“Cooking” can be cutting up fruit and veggies and arranging the pieces into a fun-looking salad.
Cooking can be measuring the appropriate proportions of rice to water for the rice cooker, making healthy smoothies or stirring easy-to-make caramel sauce to dip apple slices into. She can even make her own “health” bars.
You should not tell your granddaughter that she is fat, or will be fat, or that she is “chunky,” “husky,” “big boned,” or any iteration of this. You should not comment on the size or shape of her body. You should only focus on positive, healthy choices, and choose activities — both in and out of the kitchen — that help her to feel awesome, strong, and in control.
Let your granddaughter take some of these healthy lessons back to her parents. There are dozens of fun cookbooks geared toward kids. One of my favorites is by Mollie Katzen: Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up. Let her choose recipes she wants to make, and praise and enjoy the results.
Resource for Picky Eaters
Several years ago, I found a wonderful resource for healthy and delicious recipes for my three granddaughters. Jennifer Tyler Lee is an award-winning cookbook author, game creator, and healthy eating advocate. I receive her weekly newsletter which features kid-friendly recipes with half the sugar and twice the nutrition.
Jennifer created a game called Crunch a Color to get her own children to eat their vegetables. The colorful card game encourages kids to eat fresh produce without instigating a power struggle. She’s also written a cookbook, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, which engages children in creating meals and trying new things.