Hey! What’s Your Grandmother Eating?

When I was a dietetic
intern at
McGill University, one of my rotations included
a community nutrition workshop geared toward seniors.  I was supposed to
develop a presentation for a group of elderly holocaust survivors.  Since
this was one of my first public speeches, I was very nervous. I was prepared to
read what I had written off index cards, whilst trying to make eye contact and
appearing to be relaxed.  

I began my discussion by rattling off a few
statistics when I was suddenly interrupted by a gentleman who said in a very
thick Yiddish accent "Miss I hope you aren't going to tell me vat to eat!
I am 95 years old and I have eaten an egg everyday of my life!" I was a
little stunned because the truth was, yes I was going to tell them all what I
thought they should be eating.  At that point I ditched my cue cards and
initiated a discussion about the foods they loved.

It's been a long time since that first
nutrition workshop.  One thing that always stuck with me since that day is
that if someone is 75-plus and in reasonably good health then who am I to tell
them what to eat?  As I continued my studies and then later worked for
Meals on Wheels, I learned the issue with autonomous seniors is usually that
they don't eat enough. Many of them simply eat tea and toast. Since they
often dine alone and may be unable physically to cook for themselves, they may
unintentionally eat low calorie meals. When I work with seniors now, I
make sure they are eating sufficiently and getting plenty of fluids as
dehydration is a common problem.

My grandmother who is going to be 90 this year
(she will be mad if she knows I told you this) eats healthy.  She is of
the generation that cooked with schmaltz (Yiddish term for animal fat) yet she
personally never did that.  
Feb 2010 061  She always makes balanced meals for herself
which include a vegetable or fruit a lean protein and a whole grain.  She
does love to eat something sweet after a meal but it's always small like an
ounce of chocolate or a cookie, accompanied with a fruit and a cup of tea. She
has never made complicated meals and her recipes are basic and

Sometimes when I visit Grandma Toby I see she
has bought some packaged food that is high in Trans fat. I tell her this
is like poison and she replies "c'mon…..big deal…..a small amount
isn't going to do anything".  It's hard to argue with her because at
almost 90 she’s totally with it. However, there's enough research on the
subject that indicates the dangers of
Trans fat. Yet when I eat with my
grandmother and she offers me a TF cookie I almost want to eat it. But, I
don't and she gets insulted. Then I think about the guy who ate an
egg everyday
of his life
(which is not a bad thing by the way as long as you don’t have
uncontrolled elevated
LDL cholesterol and or diabetes) and I sigh……





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