Do Americans care where our food comes from? If you are interested in growing your own food, whether it be done in the backyard or front yard, we can encourage young people to GYO, grow your own! We pass on all kinds of traditions to our children. Holidays, prayers or chants, family stories, fitness regimes, and eating habits.
When I lived in DC for years, many of the grocery store’s afterschool checkout staff were older teens and young adults. I was surprised how many of them could not identify vegetables such as eggplants, zucchinis, and some fruits like papayas. They never ate these at home, so how would they know? Fast food restaurants never served any veggies except french fries and a hard, non ripened tomato, and salt was the main flavoring ingredients for most fast foods. A veggie platter with ranch dip was never presented in school either. Salty snacks such as pretzels and potato chips are often common in kids and their parents’ diets.
USA studies show that only ¼ of adults eat veggies three times a day, and we know that obesity is on the rise for kids. Can you add a ripe tomato or avocado slice on toast and an egg in the morning, light salad with mixed greens and sandwich for lunch, and steamed or sauteed broccoli, asparagus, carrots, string beans, for dinner? It’s easy and the benefits are worth it. The flavors are natural!
Healthy eating can make a big difference in lives, young and old. Food can affect moods. Sit around sipping on a sugary soda all day shot up with caffeine and it is guaranteed to send you down into a spiral when your blood sugar first spikes with sugar and then dips with none. It is hard to get off the sugar train. Withdrawal, as with any drugs, can be difficult. There are tasty alternatives to soda. If you want the kids to wean off of caffeinated beverages, first off, you have to set the example. Chicory, matcha tea, and green tea can be healthy substitutes. And for an energy boost, try peanut butter on celery sticks. It sounds strange but is really good.
With both parents nowadays holding down jobs, home cooking for some families has gone extinct. It’s much easier to pick up a bucket full of chicken and hand it out to everyone for dinner. And there’s no dishes to wash either! Convenience has replaced nutrition in our society. Home economics classes were removed from many school agenda’s years ago and cooking skills are not taught at all. It used to be that you learned how to cook from your mom or grandma who passed on their recipes.
The trend that really seemed to kick in the desire to cook again at home was the popularity of TV cooking shows. Emerald, Anthony, Bobby, and Gordon were men who knew how to cook, serve, and eat good food. They became role models and men donned their man aprons and set out to the grill with passion! My nephew wanted to go to culinary school after he graduated high school. He never stood in the kitchen once in his life preparing his own food. Having his own TV show was his goal!
We get lessons through to kids by making things fun rather than boring and tedious. Do you enjoy cooking? A fun family food adventure is to focus on one cookbook per month and let the kids pick out recipes that appeal to them and cook them together. Make a goal to try one new food item per week. Try making eggplant parmesan or zucchini casserole together. Start a wall chart and write down your new menu and have the kids vote on whether it rates high or low on the “Eat again” grocery list.
Growing some new veggies in your garden can be another fun family project. Potatoes, corn, and tomatoes when home grown taste better than store bought, we all agree on that. Adding kale, spinach, and lettuce greens to your own garden and you will add a nutrition and flavor boost. Why not add fresh herb plants to your garden, too, such as basil, dill, and chives. You can even eat some flowers in your salads, like nasturtiums or chive blossoms!
A valuable resource for families to learn about healthy eating can be found at https://extension.wvu.edu/food-health/nutrition/fnp. This is the Family Nutrition Program offered by the WV Extension. Topics such as Teen Cuisine and Healthy Lunches give tips and great info for the whole family.
(Karen Cohen is a home gardener, food preserver, seed saver and avid explorer. Please send your tips and comments to email@example.com and Happy Growing!)
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