You love your grandkids. They're the cutest and smartest on the block. Chances are you take every opportunity to spend time with them. That probably means choosing meals and snacks together.
What’s the smartest choice?
"Growing kids typically have voracious appetites. They need lots of calories for fuel to grow and play," says Kathleen Zelman, RD, director of nutrition for WebMD. "Grandparents don’t need as much as they get older. But beyond those differences, the guidelines for healthy food choices are the same."
Your kids' visits to grandma or grandpa can be a good opportunity for boosting the nutrition of both. Preparing many small portions of finger foods can help, especially if your parent has lost interest in cooking or eating, says Joanne Koenig Coste, a former caregiver and expert in family caregiving. She suggests dividing soybeans, baked vegetable chips, pine nuts, or pumpkin seeds into snack-size baggies to leave for healthy snacks. "Cut granola bars into four or six pieces for snacks," Coste says. "Make smoothies in advance that they can defrost and eat."
Grandparents who make smart food choices for their grandkids do more than keep them healthy, says Ruth Ann Carpenter, RD, author of Healthy Eating Every Day. "You’ll also serve as a role model, shaping their choices for the rest of their lives."
For inspiration, turn to these top 10 foods that are perfect for people at almost any age.
That’s right, eggs. Once vilified because they contain dietary cholesterol, eggs are back on the healthy menu. "As long as you limit yourself to about one egg a day, you don’t need to worry," says Zelman.
That one egg each morning is about half the daily cholesterol limit for people with normal LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Just remember to limit your cholesterol the rest of the day. Eggs are packed with nutrients, protein, and unsaturated fats (as well as some saturated fat). They fill you up on relatively few calories. And they're versatile. Zelman’s suggestions: egg and vegetable scrambles for breakfast, hard-boiled eggs for a snack, and egg-salad sandwiches on whole-grain bread.
2. Milk and Other Dairy Products
The official federal dietary guidelines recommend three cups of low-fat dairy products a day for adults. Children 2 to 8 years should have 2 cups a day if they don't have a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance. The calcium in dairy products helps build strong bones in children and preserves bone strength in older people. Milk is an easy choice. For snacks, low-fat string cheese is nutritious and fun for younger kids. When the grandkids are clamoring for a sweet treat, whip up a low-sugar-yogurt smoothie with fresh fruit.
Coste says that both younger and older people tend to have a sweet tooth, and family members can take advantage of this by making healthy, tasty desserts for them. For example, make a pudding by substituting low-sugar yogurt for part of the water in strawberry Jell-O. Bring it over to Mom or Dad's with some ice cream cones. "Then the grandparent and grandchildren can eat the pudding out of ice cream cones," she says. "It's great fun and isn't that 'icy cold' if you have dental or denture issues."
Another healthy twist: Make a sandwich cookie by spreading cream cheese between two gingersnap cookies. "Nothing is going to make an older person lose the desire to eat like not getting to eat a treat once in a while," Coste says.