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We have had two groups of teenagers staying at our house for a church retreat the past two weeks. Did it throw us a little off of our retirement schedule - of course. Does the house seem empty today, and do we wish we had them back - absolutely yes!
I agreed to provide breakfast every morning. Their leaders bought food for lunch and dinner. The kids made their own sandwiches for lunch. I helped the sponsors prepare dinner. I haven’t done much baking since my children grew up, so I was excited to pull out our family’s favorite bread and muffin recipes. The first morning I made carrot bread - they barely touched it. The second morning I made cranberry crunch - they were suspicious of cranberries. The third morning I had planned to make pecan muffins, but I wavered. Pecans are expensive and pecan muffins are time consuming. Did I want to spend extra time and money on something the kids would not eat? No, I did not. So I bought 88 cent packages of refined blueberry muffin mix. The directions said just add water. Easy and fast! Every muffin vanished, and the kids said, “Mrs. Graham, those were delicious.”
For dinner, they basically had starch and cheese. One night we grilled burgers. We had lettuce, tomato, and avocado for toppings. The adults ate the vegetables; the kids ate burgers, buns, cheese, and chips. One night we had taco fixings, so the kids could make tacos or taco salads. The most popular dinner was to crush the taco shells and make nachos out of chips, beans, and cheese. The third night was pizza. Pepperoni was the most popular; supreme (with vegetable toppings) was the least popular.
The kids did love watermelon, and ate as much of that as we could cut.
Let me be real clear - I am not going to be critical of the kids or their parents. I was an extremely picky eater as a child. My parents were frustrated that I refused to eat anything except meat, fruit, bread, potatoes, and dessert. It would be highly hypocritical if I made disparaging remarks about our guests. However, from a nutritional and BTD standpoint, I am concerned about the future of this generation.
Statistically 43% of these kids are Type Os - yet they only ate meat one night that they were here. Statistically 40% are Type As. They can tolerate more grain than the Os, but also need lots of fruits and vegetables. Statistically, 12% are Type Bs - They are more likely to flourish on milk products, but all of the kids craved cheese for both lunch and dinner.
When I was a teen, I was an anomaly. All of my friends ate vegetables. They ate lettuce and tomato on their hamburgers. I was the one who got funny looks at restaurants and frowns for not eating green beans when I was a guest at a friend’s house. Forcing me to eat was a complete failure.
The media periodically runs a story about a school district that passes a law decreeing that schools will serve vegetables for lunch. Follow up reports say that those vegetables are mostly thrown in the trash. So coercion is no more successful with today’s kids than it was with me.
I made my own choice to change my diet when I was in college, to the shock and delight of my parents. I hope these kids will eventually do the same. Otherwise I fear that they will face a lifetime of weight, vision, joint, inflammation, and other health problems.
With my own children, I was continuously cutting deals - “if you eat this, then you get to eat that.” They cooperated. It helped that I was an at home mom who liked to cook and experiment in the kitchen. My heart goes out to single moms who try to juggle jobs and after school activities and chores at home. There is no time to cook. Fast food and frozen dinners are so easy and so tempting.
I started this blog with great passion, but I’m ending a little flat, because I don’t know the answer. The best I can do is point to a few communities, like Denver, Seattle, Austin, Charleston, and San Francisco, where for some reason the culture shifted, outdoor exercise became popular, fast food chains were snubbed, and health became important. Positive peer pressure would be the best way to change what today’s kids eat.
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